There was a time when food trucks were called Roach Coaches, regarded as a step below fast food and just above Applebee’s but a lot has changed in the last few years. Street food has become en vogue, Off the Grid has a following and entire festivals are devoted to reinventing your grandma’s old recipes.
Enter: the humble tamale
Lard and masa or cornmeal are the magical base of your tamale. I got my lard at a local Mexican grocery store, the thankfully saved from bankruptcy chain, Mi Pueblo.
For the masa harina, I just used Maseca, available in most grocery stores.
I made two kinds of tamales: one with salsa verde and the other with pasilla chilis, the red variety.
Soak pasilla peppers in hot water to soften and make more pliable
I used the Costco rotisserie chicken, shredded it and combined with the soaked pasilla peppers along with 1 cup of the water the peppers soaked in.
You also need to soften the tamale wraps by soaking them for an hour or so in hot water
Wrap and steam as much as a bamboo steamer can hold. For a tutorial on how to wrap, click here.
20 or so corn husks
Shortcut: shred one whole Costco rotisserie chicken
Shortcut: 1 jar of your favorite tomatillo sauce, mine happens to be the Trader Joe’s variety
- 2 1/2 cups masa harina (cornmeal for tamales; Maseca brand is recommended)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups of canned chicken broth (reserved from poaching chicken)
- 3/4 cup fresh lard or solid vegetable shortening
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
Prepare the Corn Husks
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then remove from heat. Add the corn husks, making sure to submerge them under water, and cover the pot. Soak the corn husks in the pot for 20 minutes. They should be soft and flexible, and take on a deep beige color. Remove the corn husks from the water and wrap them in a damp paper towel until you are ready to use them.
Prepare the Tamal Dough
To make the masa, combine the masa harina with 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth and mix well. The masa should have the consistency of a stiff dough. Set aside.
Put the lard in a mixing bowl. Beat the lard with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add half of the masa and beat until well blended. Add the 3 tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth and the remaining masa and continue beating until a teaspoon of the dough dropped into a cup of cold water floats, about 10 minutes. If after 15 minutes of constant beating your dough does not float, move on (despite it not floating, the dough will be fine).
Sprinkle the baking powder and the salt over the dough and mix in well.
Assemble the Tamales
Place a corn husk lengthwise in front of you with the wide side closest to you. Spread 2 tablespoons of the dough all over the bottom half (wide side) of the corn husk, leaving about a 1-inch-wide border on the left and right sides.
Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling lengthwise down the center of the dough. Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and unite them. Allow the dough to surround the filling by pinching together the corn husk where the dough comes together. Roll both sides of the corn husks in the same direction over the tamal. Fold down the empty top section of the cornhusk and secure it by tying a thin strip of corn husk around the tamal (the top will be open).
Repeat this process until all the corn husks or tamal dough are used up.
Steam the Tamales
Arrange the tameles in a bamboo steamer over gently simmering water. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for 40 minutes.
Serve with salsa or Mexican crema