Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chicken Tamales

I really enjoy making tamales. Yes, the process is long, but they are so good. It's one of the rare times I eat corn based products.

I made these for a family dinner. Initially, my brother Brian wasn't going to come, because he said he hated tamales. But, since I was serving taco's as well, he decided to attend. After I unwrapped the first tamale and gave it to him, he looked at me in surprise and said - it's better when you don't eat the peel (meaning the corn husk)...I guess if I ate the corn husk, I wouldn't like them either.

This is shown with a green chili sauce. I'm not including the recipe for this, because, quite frankly, I bought it. Yes, it's probably a rather odd short cut to take when I hand made everything else for the dinner, but the picture didn't look great. The red salsa made it look like the tamale was bleeding, so we will just consider the green sauce a bit of picture fluff.

When I'm making dishes like this from chicken, I like to use chicken thighs. There is little danger of the meat drying out, and the result is really nice juicy chicken. You can fill these with a variety of things. I had planned on making some sweet tamales, but I had a but more tamale filling than I had tamale batter, so I ended up making them all savory. My family all loved them, so that's good.

The recipe should easily serve 6. Any leftover chicken can be made into tacos, it really is a nice filling. I use an easy method to keep the corn husks closed - I wrap each tamale in aluminum foil to steam. The tamales are more moist, and easier to store that way as well. And, I don't have to tie each shut individually like I did the last time.

For the Chicken:

4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
1 T. oil
1 can green chile's
2 jalapeno's, diced fine
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
4-6 cups water

Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute chicken thighs, skin side down, until skin is brown and some fat is in the pan. Remove the chicken (it will still be quite raw). Add oil, jalapeno's, and onions to the pan, and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, chile's and smoked paprika. Put chicken back in the pan, and cover with water. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer (covered) until chicken is fall off the bone tender, about 3 hours.

Cool chicken and shred, discarding bones and skin. You can strain the chile's and onions out of the liquid (reserving the cooking liquid) and add to the chicken if you would like (I did, but it is completely optional). Set aside

For the tamales:

Corn husks, soaking in warm water
5 cups corn flour (masa)
1 T. kosher salt
1 T. baking powder
1 cup lard or shortening
reserved cooking liquid, strained and cooled

In a large bowl, add the masa, salt, baking powder, and lard. Mix together until lard is well incorporated into the masa. Add cooking liquid until mixture resembles a thick paste, or thicker mashed potatoes. Set aside for at least 10 minutes, and check on it again, it may need more liquid. If you run out of reserved liquid, add water. The total water needed should be approximately 3-5 cups.


Find a reasonably sized corn husk, and place 1/4 to 1/3 cup tamale mixture in the middle. Spread out on the corn husk in a rectangle. Place 2-3T. chicken mixture in the middle of the tamale, and fold, encasing the filling in the tamale dough. Fold over the edges of the corn husks, and wrap in aluminum foil.

Steam the tamales in a steamer for 2-3 hours, until, when one is tested, they are no longer doughy and cooked through. Serve hot.

These will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator after being steamed, and heat very well in the microwave.

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