Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Daring Bakers Make Tamales!

Better extremely ridiculously late than ever!

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

Geez, Jenni, what a way to start the new year! But, to be honest, this month has been something of a tidal wave. What with spending every waking moment I could getting the Recipe Index up and going (have you looked at it yet? What do you think?), both of our cars went to the mechanic this past week (that was super fun, let me tell you!) and things have been just all around crazy here.

Add to that the I tried, really tried to do this challenge early! But I couldn't find corn husks or masa harina anywhere, there aren't any Mexican specialty shops in the area. I even went to the one Mexican restaurant that we have and begged them to let me buy some ingredients off of them - they just pretended like they didn't speak English.

I was all set to have to toss in the towel and not complete this challenge, but luckily my good friend Shelley from C Mom Cook came to my rescue!! She bought way more ingredients than she needed and was sooooo nice to mail me her extras! (Everyone go over to her blog and tell her how awesome and wonderful she is!!!). I then had to wait for a day when I could get some extra help in the kitchen, and when my friend Rachael came over, we put on some Rodrigo Y Gabriela and spent the afternoon rolling and steaming.
This is what a photo shoot looks like at my house. Plus a dog nose on each elbow.

There was only one minor set-back when the steam created too much moisture in the crazy steaming contraption that we built. The colander we had precariously positioned above a pot of boiling water FELL into the pot, splashing my entire kitchen in corn-husky scented boiling water. Luckily we were all playing in the living room when it happened and no one got hurt. A few extra minutes were needed to clean everything up, re-position our contraption and steam our tamales just a tiny bit more and we were good to go! I had never had a tamale before now, but I really liked it! They were fun to make and very tasty!

Preparation time:
Soaking the corn husks: 3 hours or up to 1 day
Green Chile Chicken Tamales:
For the filling: 1 ½ hours
For the masa: 10 minutes
Preparation and cooking: 2 hours (depending on how quickly you become at pressing and rolling the dough)

Green Chile Chicken Tamales:

Servings: About 24 tamales
1 – 8 ounce (225 gram) package dried corn husks (If you cannot find corn husks, you can use parchment paper or plastic wrap.)
For filling:
1 pound (455 gram) tomatillos (can sub mild green chilies – canned or fresh)
4 – 3 inch (7½ cm) serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped (can sub jalapeno)
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons (22½ ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups (480 ml) low sodium chicken broth
4 cups (960 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) cooked and shredded chicken
2/3 cup (160 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) roughly chopped fresh cilantro (also known as coriander)
For the masa dough:
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (265 gm/9⅓ oz) lard or vegetable shortening
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (10 gm/1/3 oz) salt (omit if already in masa mixture)
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm/¼ oz) baking powder (omit if already in masa mixture)
4 cups (960 ml) (480 gm/17 oz) masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
1 ½-2 cups (360 ml – 480 ml) low sodium chicken broth
1. Place the dried corn husks in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Place a heavy plate or a smaller pot full of water on top of husks to keep them in the water. Let soak for 3 hours or up to 1 day, flipping occasionally until husks are softened.
3. Once husks are softened, boil chicken about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
4. Immediately place hot chicken into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Turn mixer on high to shred chicken (this takes about 3-5 seconds).
5. Place an oven rack on the top setting. Turn the oven on broil. Peel and rinse the tomatillos.
6. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Place tomatillos on baking sheet and place under broiler.
7. Broil (grill) until black spots form on tomatillos, then flip and broil (grill) other side. This takes about 5-10 minutes per side depending on the strength of the broiler.
8. Place roasted tomatillos and juices from the pan into a food processor and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped Serrano chiles and process until smooth.
9. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
10. Add the tomatillo puree and boil, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes (it should turn thick like a paste).
11. Add in the chicken broth, stir to mix well. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture coats the back of a spoon and is reduced to about a cup (240 ml).
12. Stir in the chicken and cilantro. Salt to taste.
13. Prepare the dough. In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium high heat, cream together the lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder and salt.
Mix in the masa harina, one cup (240 ml) at a time.
14. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add in 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of the chicken broth.
15. If the mixture seems too thick (you can taste it for moistness) add up to ½ cup (120 ml) more of the broth 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time. (The dough should be a cookie dough like texture).
16. Take 3 large corn husks and tear them into ¼ inch (6 mm) strips. (I would suggest you put these back in the water until use because they dry out and start breaking when you try to work with them.
17. Take a large pot with a steamer attachment. Pour about 2 inches (5 cm) of water into the bottom of the pot, or enough to touch the bottom of the steamer. Line the bottom of the steamer with corn husks.
18. Unfold 2 corn husks onto a work surface. Take ¼ cup (60 ml) of dough and, starting near the top of the husk, press it out into a 4 inch (10 cm) square, leaving 2-3 inches (5 -7½ cm) at the bottom of the husk. Place a heaping tablespoon (15 ml) of the filling in a line down the center of the dough square.
19. Fold the dough into the corn husk.
20. And wrap the husk around the dough.
21. Fold up the skinny bottom part of the husk.
22. And secure it with one of the corn husk ties.
23. Stand them up in the steamer. If there aren’t enough tamales to tightly pack the steamer, place crumpled aluminum foil in the excess space.
24. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk.


  1. You were right, Jenni, these came out fantastic!! Great job!!! I've never made tamales but I want to soon, especially after seeing these lovelies!

  2. When the food looks ridiculously good, ridiculously late seems perfect! Great job!

  3. I've never tried making homemade tamales - they look wonderful!

  4. I loved making these - I couldn't find husks, so I ended up using banana leaves.
    They look great!


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