So, during the chillier weather of Fall, Winter, and Spring I enjoy making Tamales about once a month or so (depending on my motivation). I learned how to make these on a mission trip to a remote area in Mexico. Since then I've watched a few videos on it and read some recipes and I think I've finally gotten this down to a point where we like it. The dough (or masa) has good flavor and is moist. This can be a fun process to try!
40+ Dry Corn Husks (some people use banana leaves but I don't even know where to find those)
2 1/4 cup Maseca (corn flour- I used Minsa this time)
2/3 cupShortening (I like to use the butter flavored)
1 3/4- 2 1/4 hot water/chicken stock
2T- 1/4 cup salsa or chipotles in adobe (optional)
1t chili powder
2 chicken breast or whichever meat or filling you want to try
I use 2-3 chicken breasts. I season with whatever I have on hand. Cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. I like to use some sauce and peppers from a can of chipotle adobe peppers, or I really like to use Herdez Red salsa (I think it's the five pepper jarred sauce). Cook up the meat and allow it to rest.
Meanwhile, pull out enough corn husks, probably need about 30-40. Grab a large bowl, or I use a 9X13, and hot water from the faucet. Place the husks in the water to get them to be pliable to they will not tear. To keep them submerged I use the biggest/heaviest coffee cup I have and place on top.
To start the dough place corn flour, salt and shortening (or lard)in the mixing bowl. If using a mixer then just start mixing on a medium high level. This cuts the shortening in. If no mixer than a pastry blender or even some knives can be used but a mixer just does it quickly and evenly.
Then add in the chicken broth/water. Slowly add in 1 3/4 cup to 2 cups. If needed, more water can be add later and as you go. The desired texture is soft and smooth and not crumbly but not runny. When the dough is pressed it should be somewhat firm but smooth easily. In this picture I pressed my finger into the dough to give and idea of what it will look like after mixing and when pressed.
Pull or dice meat.
If larger tamales are desired than more corn husks must be used for each tamale. This is accomplished by overlapping top to bottom and/or sides. There needs to be enough leftover to fold over the tamale. I like to use about 1/3 cup or so of dough and 2 Tablespoons of meat. Flatten dough onto corn husks. Sometimes a plastic spatula or fingers work well. If using hands, a little cup of water comes in handy and keeps the dough moist and from sticking. Place meat in the middle and then roll/fold sides and the top and bottom, so it now a nice little package. I then lay the folded sides against the pan. The biggest thing here is to make sure it's folded well enough so nothing falls out. If the tamale is all folded up and there is not enough extra to over lap then place the tamale seam down into another husk and wrap it up again.
I like to use a large pasta pot or steamer. There are tamaleros (big galvanized pots) but the pasta pot works really well.
Once you have all your tamales in, then you should steam them on medium high for 2-3 hours. Be sure and watch and makes sure you don't run out of water. I've scalded my pans quite a few times but I just add more water and then they come clean easily. :)
They're finished when the corn husk is pulled away and the tamales stays firm. If the dough is still gooey and clings to the husk then it needs more time.
We like to serve the tamales with red enchilada sauce and Monterrey Jack cheese.
These are a lot of fun and get easier and quicker to make every time I do it. If you have older children then call them into the action and have a tamale making party!