Tamales

Tamales de chile verde

(Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen Cookbook)



Ingredients
Dried cornhusks

Masa
½ c vegetable shortening

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 pounds (4 cups) coarse-ground masa (unprepared) for tamales

About 1 cup cool chicken broth, plus up to 1/3 cup more for the second beating (if you choose to do it)

Salt, about 1 tablespoon


Pollo en salsa verde
1 pound tomatillos (Cleaned – take off skins and clean)

Serrano or Jalapeño peppers to taste (try using 3 or so to taste)

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 small white onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 Roasted Chicken - shredded

Epazote (a Mexican herb)

Cilantro

Salt, Pepper, Ground Cumin – to taste


1. The cornhusks. Soak the cornhusks in hot water and let stand an hour or so.

2. The batter. With an electric mixer, beat the chilled lard or shortening with the baking powder and salt until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa. Slowly pour in broth, beating all the while. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light).

3. The filling. Roast the tomatillos and chiles (serranos or jalapeños) on a baking sheet set 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened and blistered on one side, about 6 minutes; flip and roast the other side. Let cool. Puree everything (tomatillos, chiles and juices) in a blender or food processor.

In a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Increase the heat, and when the oil is really hot, add the tomatillo/chile puree, salt, pepper, cumin and a sprig of epazote. Lower the heat, cover and let cook until the sauce becomes a darker color (about 20 minutes or so). Uncover and stir occasionally. Taste and season, if it needs it. Once it’s ready, add the shredded chicken. Let cook a few minutes and then stir in chopped cilantro and turn off heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Forming and steaming the tamales. Pick out the nicest cornhusks for forming the tamales, then use about 2/3 of the remainder to line a steamer (you'll need one that’s at least 4 inches deep--a Mexican tamal steamer is traditional, though a vegetable steamer in a deep pot will do here, or a Chinese steamer works well, too). A pasta pot also works really well.

(This description is from Rick Bayless – but you’re all experts now and probably don’t need.)
One by one form the tamales: lay one of the good cornhusks in front of you, lightly dry it, then spread about a scant 1/4 cup of the batter into a 4-inch square, leaving at least a 1 1/2-inch border on the pointy end of the husk, a 3/4-inch border along the other sides. Spoon a good 2 tablespoons of the filling down the center of the batter. Pick up the two long sides of the husk and bring them together (this will cause the batter to roll around the filling, enclosing it). Roll the flaps of the husk in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is so small that the tamal doesn't seem very well wrapped, roll it in another husk.) Fold up the empty, pointy 1 1/2-inch section to close off the bottom. Stand the tamal on the folded end in the steamer (the top of the tamal will be open).

Continue spreading, filling, rolling and folding until all the tamales are made (you may have a little filling left, which is great in scrambled eggs or soft tacos). Fill in any gaps in the steamer with loosely wadded foil, to keep the tamales from sliding down as they steam. Lay any unused husks over the tamales, (I also add a moistened kitchen towel on top of the tamales and corn husks) then bring a couple of inches of water in the steamer to a boil. Cover the pot tightly and steam over medium heat for 1 to 1 1/4 hours; make sure that the water stays at a good steady boil and never runs out--otherwise your tamales won’t be as light. If the water runs low, pour a little boiling water into the steamer, being careful not to pour it onto the tamales.

The tamales are done when the husk peels away easily. Let them firm up a few minutes in the steamer, off the heat, before setting your fragrant creations before your guests.

Advance Preparation: Tamales hold beautifully, covered and refrigerated for several days; reheat them in the steamer. Also, the filling is great by itself and can be made in advance.



       



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