FYI: Even if you take shortcuts, this process will take several hours. My advice, make tamale pie instead (recipe at the end of this post).
okay, so Cinco de Mayo is a little victory celebrated in one state in Mexico and an overly hyped Alcoholiday in the US. But that’s no excuse not to enjoy some tasty Mexican/Latin food. Tamales (ground corn mix wrapped around your favorite meat and vegetable filling) are one of my favorites. My favorite recipe is a chicken, vegetable, and chili pepper sauce. Here is a good video showing many of the steps I describe below.
Recipe for 35 Tamales:
Corn Husks – Soak in water (submerge with a bowl or something heavy) for 1 hour while you prep other ingredients.
5 Chicken Thighs (more flavor), 3 garlic cloves, 1/8 red onion – Boil in water 30 minutes until fully cooked and able to shred w/ a fork. Save water, shred chick or cut into small pieces.
While chicken is cooking, 1 lg or 2 med potatoes, 1 lg Poblano Pepper (not hot), 1/2 yellow or red onion, and 1 lg zucchini – cut 1/4 in sticks about 1 in. long. Soak veggies in water until ready to use.
5 dried Chili California and 3 dried Chili Pasilla (probably get a specialty store or grocery that caters to the Latin community) – cook in hot water, do not boil for long, until soft but not falling apart. When soft, remove from water, cut open to remove seeds, remove stem, add to food processor with a little of the chili water (1/4). Add 1 cup of strained chicken broth after chicken is cooked.
2 or 3 small Roma tomatoes – Boil a few minutes. Add to food processor with chilies. Add 1 tsp of ground pepper, 1 tsp cumin. Process until no big pieces of chili peppers.
Now fry shredded chicken with 2 tlb olive oil, when gets a little crispy add 1/2 chili sauce. Let cool.
4 cups Masa Harina Flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup olive oil or 4 oz unsalted butter and 1/2 cup lard (lard goes bad quickly but gives authentic flavor), 1 tsp salt, optional 1.5 cups pureed fresh corn, 4 cups chicken broth (add hot water if short), 4 tlb sugar. Mix all ingredients, then add 1/2 chili sauce mixture.
Now rinse corn husks, pulling apart each one, stack larger ones for use and use a few small pieces to make tie strips.
Now to assemble. Drain water from vegetables and sprinkle with 2 tsp salt each for potato and zucchini. Lay one large husk on a flat surface, not too thick. Using a spatula, cover the surface about 1.5 in long and 3 in. wide. Fill with a little bit of chicken, 2 pieces of potato, 2 pieces of zucchini, few slices of poblano pepper and onion. Roll up like a cigar, fold the uncoated end up, and tie with husk strip. If making different types (pork, beef, or veggie) you can tie with two strips of special tie to distinguish the difference.
You can freeze uncooked (if no lard) or you can cook right away and then freeze. To cook tamales, set up a steamer like a pasta pot with a removable strainer. Stack Tamales upright so open end faces up, steam 1 hour minimum until masa dough easily peels away from husk. Remove husk to eat.
Extra filling ingredients can be made into Tamale Pie:
I mixed the leftover filling ingredients and filled a 6×9 baking dish. For the topping, I mixed 1.5 cups masa flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chili powder, can also add cumin, 2.5 cups water, 2 tlb softened butter. Mix well and pour over top of veggies. Bake 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.