Tamales II

From the Nahuatl word, tamalli, meaning "wrapped." A dough is made from fat and masa flour, then wrapped, filled, in a corn husk and steamed. Plate like an enchilada with a chile sauce, pico de gallo, cheese, refried beans and rice, etc.

The tamal is probably the pinnacle of Mexican good eats, a tradition of long, beautiful and tastiness even without the royal tamal!

Dough ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tbsp quick grits
1½ cups boiling water
1 cup (4 ounces) plus 2 tbsp masa harina
20 large dried corn husks
1½ cups frozen corn, thawed
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes and softened
6 tbsp lard, softened
1 tbsp sugar
2¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 recipe red chile chicken filling (below)


1. Place grits in medium bowl, whisk in boiling water, and let stand until water is mostly absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in masa harina, cover, and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place husks in large bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak until pliable, about 30 minutes.

2. Process masa dough, corn, butter, lard, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in food processor until mixture is light, sticky, and very smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Remove husks from water and pat dry with dish towel.

3. Working with 1 husk at a time, ...

  1. Lay on counter, cupped side up, with long side facing you and wide end on right side.
  2. Spread ¼ cup tamale dough into 4" square over bottom right-hand corner, pushing it flush to bottom edge but leaving ½" border at wide edge.
  3. Mound 2 scant tbsp filling in line across center of dough, parallel to bottom edge.
  4. Roll husk away from you and over filling, so that dough surrounds filling and forms cylinder.
  5. Fold up tapered end, leaving top open, and transfer seam side down to platter.

4. Fit large pot or Dutch oven with steamer basket, removing feet from steamer basket if pot is short. Fill pot with water until it just touches bottom of basket and bring to boil. Gently lay tamales in basket with open ends facing up and seam sides facing out. Cover and steam, checking water level often and adding additional water as needed, until tamales easily come free from husks, about 1 hour. Transfer tamales to large platter. Reheat remaining sauce from filling in covered bowl in microwave, about 30 seconds, and serve with tamales.

Red Chile Chicken Filling


4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into ½" pieces (1 cup)
4 dried New Mexican chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into ½" pieces (1 cup)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
¾ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1½ tbsp cider vinegar


1. Toast anchos and New Mexican chiles in 12" skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 2 to 6 minutes; transfer to bowl.

2. Heat oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, oregano, ½ tsp salt, and toasted chiles and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in broth and simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender and process until smooth, about 20 seconds; return to skillet.

3. Season chicken with salt and pepper, nestle into skillet, and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until chicken registers 160°, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Transfer chicken to carving board and let cool slightly. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into small pieces. Stir vinegar into sauce and season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Toss shredded chicken with 1 cup sauce. Reheat remaining sauce and serve with tamales.