August 12, 2006


On a recent interesting trip to a newly-opened Mexican supermarket in another part of town, we found so many unique ingredients and stuff, like these dried corn husks used for making tamales, which gave me the inspiration to seriously consider attempting to make it. I heard tamales-making is a complicated process. I agree that it was a bit time consuming from preparing and cooking the filling to the tamales wrapping and assembly, but I think the fact that they may be made ahead, refrigerated or frozen, makes up for the time and effort spent to make them. The internet along with quite a few Mexican cookbooks my husband has kept all these years, were quite helpful in my search for an authentic tamales recipe that's not just easier but also healthier. I've found numerous combinations and ingredients for making the tamales dough. I wasn't too eager to try one using lard, so I just went on with my researching which finally led me to one that uses all vegetable oil. I finally decided and settled with a combination of olive and corn oil which worked quite well. They clearly state in the recipes that masa harina or cornflour is different from cornmeal, must have been creating some confusion somehow. But using the correct flour is important to achieve a good final product. I have since made a couple of batches, figuring out the correct wrapping technique after several tries was a challenge but learning to make tamales is worth it.Tamales Dough and Assembly

8 oz masa harina ( I used the suggested Maseca brand )
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive and corn oil combination
1 1/2 cups broth ( chicken, beef or combination )
dried corn husks
meat filling ( any chicken or beef enchilada filling will do )

Measure or weigh the cornflour into a big bowl. Add baking powder, salt and mix well. Slowly stir in oil and broth until the mixture turns into a smooth & soft dough. The masa or dough is ready at this stage. Any meat filling like those for enchiladas will do. Wash the corn husks well and place them in a deep tray. A 9 x 13 baking pan works great. Slowly pour boiling water over the husks and let them soften and become pliable for a few minutes. To assemble the tamales, lay two husks together with pointed ends on opposite direction. Let the wide middle parts of the husks overlap about 4 - 5 inches wide. Spoon about 1/4 cup of tamales dough into the overlapping portion and spread out thin. Spoon about two teaspoons of the filling and close, folding and bringing the pointed ends towards the center. Tie with a strip of corn husk. After all the assembly is done, arrange the tamales side by side in a steamer & steam them for one hour.

Chicken Filling

chicken breast, cooked, chopped or flaked
garlic, minced
onion, sliced
green onions, sliced
chopped cilantro leaves
lime juice
southwestern seasoning
salsa or enchilada sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add the cooked shredded chicken, seasonings, lime juice, sauces and a little chicken broth for flavor or add bouillon cube instead. Stir together until filling is all mixed and hot. Transfer to a bowl or plate and set aside until it cools off. Sprinkle and mix grated cheese before using filling. The flavors are very Southwestern and any combination preferred may be used.

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