Makes 8 tamales
The preparation of tamales is likely to have spread from the indigenous culture in Mexico and Guatemala to the rest of Latin America.
Tamales are made of corn masa dough which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, the wrapping can either be discarded prior to eating, or be used as a plate, and the tamal eaten from within. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, fruits, vegetables, different salsas and other delicious additions, the tamales preparation and ingredients can be adjusted according to taste and special diets like vegan and vegetarian.
Looking at the big set up to make tamales you are always going to need four components:
1.-Soaked corn husk. 2.-Corn masa dough. 3.-Filling (meat or vegetable). 4.-salsa or mole.
On this recipe, I am providing you my basic standard recipe that works great for me, but remember that the combination of flavors is endless.
The masa dough
1 1/2 cups of corn masa flour
1 1⁄2 cup of stock (See directions) *
6 tablespoons of pork lard or vegetable shorting if using for vegan option
1⁄2 teaspoons of baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoons of salt
8 oz. of pulled cooked meat of your choice (See directions) *
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
8 peeled green tomatillos
1⁄4 white onion
1 garlic clove
6 fresh cilantro springs
½ cup of water
Salt to taste
12 sun dried corn husk, (prewash, soaked and then dried) (See directions) *
All four components for the tamales need to be ready before starting the assembly. “the soaked corn husk, the pulled cooked meat, the masa dough, and the salsa)
1-The first thing you want to do is to start by soaking the corn husks in a bowl of hot water and set them to the side.
2-Next prepare the meat while the corn husks are soaking, remember that tamales can be filled with any meat of your choice or even just roasted vegetables or plant based products for a vegan or vegetarian option. The cooking of the meat should be simple. Just cook the meat in water with onion, garlic, aromatic herbs salt and pepper to create a strong stock, after cooking and the meat is soft enough to be pulled apart, save the stock for use of the tamales, pull the meat and set to the side.
Remember that the flavor of the stock or broth you end up with and using for your tamales making is very important as the flavor will be carried over into the masa and final product.
If you are using roasted vegetables for a vegan vegetarian option, clean vegetables, tossed in olive oil with a little salt and pepper put them in the oven to roast and use vegetable stock, you can buy vegetable stock in the store.
3-The next step is the making of the masa dough. In a mixer, put the corn masa flour with baking powder and the broth of your choice and whip in medium high speed for few minutes to incorporate as much air as possible and to make the mix very fluffy, then add the soft pork lard or vegetable shortening just to blend in and add the salt to taste. Be sure you are careful not over mix after adding the shorting or manteca to your flour mix. It is important that you have a strong flavored masa as the flavor will decrease during the cooking process.
4-Our final component is the salsa. In a medium pot put a little vegetable oil or a tablespoon of lard to high heat then roast the pepper, tomatillos, white onion and garlic, after the vegetables got some color, add the fresh cilantro and a couple cups of the broth and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes at low heat. Let it cool down and put it in a blender to create the sauce adjusting the salt to taste.
Assemble the tamales:
Now the you have all four components of the tamales and it is time to get them ready to go in the steamer.
Drain the corn husks and pat dry, then fill them assembly line-style:
On the wide end of the husk, spread 3 tablespoons dough to within 1/2 in. of the edges.
Top each with 2 tablespoons of meat and cover with salsa.
Fold the long sides of the husk over the filling. Make sure they overlap slightly for a secure closure.
Fold the narrow end of husk over.
Tie with a strip of husk to secure.
Repeat until all of the husks are filled and secured.
Place a large steamer basket in a 4-quart stockpot over 1 in. of water. Place the tamales upright in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil. Let them steam, covered, until the dough peels away from the husk, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Enjoy flavor and culture!
Chef Martin Lopez