Tamales (Daring Cooks Challenge Jan 2012)

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Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

Finding a store that stocks Masa Harina provided to be tricky in Oxford. Finally hunted some down in the specially aisle of a local supermarket after days of trawling through the ethic food stores. I decided to try the black bean filling as tamales are almost impossible to find here in the UK. It’s not corn season either so no husks were to be found, baking parchment was used instead.

Despite all the effort put into this challenge, I don’t think I’ll be making these again. I found the dough dry and tasteless, and the filling lacked depth and complexity of flavours. And as I was busy this month, it was unfortunate that I didn’t have time to improve on my first attempt.  However, I have learnt a bit more about Mexican food, and would like to try a proffesionally cooked version of this dish!
Recipe Source: Green Chile Chicken Tamales adapted from Epicurious http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Green-Chile-Chicken-Tamales-108055
Vegan Black Bean and Green Chile Tamales adapted from Squidoo http://www.squidoo.com/easy-vegan-tamale-recipes

Note: If you use a traditional masa mixture (white corn flour, not to be confused with corn starch) you will need to add baking powder and salt for the Green Chile Chicken Tamales. Some masa mixtures can be purchased with the baking powder and salt already included.
If you cannot find corn husks, you can use parchment paper or plastic wrap.

Preparation time:
Soaking the corn husks: 3 hours or up to 1 day
Green Chile Chicken Tamales:
For the filling: 1 ½ hours
For the masa: 10 minutes
Preparation and cooking: 2 hours (depending on how quickly you become at pressing and rolling the dough)
Vegan Black Bean and Green Chile Tamales:
For the filling: 5 minutes
For the masa: 10 minutes
Preparation and cooking: 2 hours (depending on how quickly you become at pressing and rolling the dough)
Equipment required:
For the husks:
• 1 large pot
• 1 heavy plate OR medium pot
For the Green Chile Chicken Tamales:
• 1 medium pot
• 1 heavy baking sheet
• Aluminum Foil
• Medium sauce pan
• Food processor
• Electric mixer with paddle attachment
• Large pot with steamer attachment
For the Vegan Black Bean and Green Chile Tamales:
• 1 medium mixing bowl
• Electric mixer with paddle attachment
• Large pot with steamer attachment

Green Chile Chicken Tamales:
Servings: About 24 tamales
Ingredients
1 – 8 ounce (225 gram) package dried corn husks (If you cannot find corn husks, you can use parchment paper or plastic wrap.)
For filling:
1 pound (455 gram) tomatillos (can sub mild green chilies – canned or fresh)
4 – 3 inch (7½ cm) serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped (can sub jalapeno)
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons (22½ ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups (480 ml) low sodium chicken broth
4 cups (960 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) cooked and shredded chicken
2/3 cup (160 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) roughly chopped fresh cilantro (also known as coriander)
For the masa dough:
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (265 gm/9⅓ oz) lard or vegetable shortening
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (10 gm/1/3 oz) salt (omit if already in masa mixture)
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm/¼ oz) baking powder (omit if already in masa mixture)
4 cups (960 ml) (480 gm/17 oz) masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
1 ½-2 cups (360 ml – 480 ml) low sodium chicken broth
Directions:
1. Place the dried corn husks in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Place a heavy plate or a smaller pot full of water on top of husks to keep them in the water. Let soak for 3 hours or up to 1 day, flipping occasionally until husks are softened.
3. Once husks are softened, boil chicken about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
4. Immediately place hot chicken into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Turn mixer on high to shred chicken (this takes about 3-5 seconds).
5. Place an oven rack on the top setting. Turn the oven on broil. Peel and rinse the tomatillos.
6. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Place tomatillos on baking sheet and place under broiler.
7. Broil (grill) until black spots form on tomatillos, then flip and broil (grill) other side. This takes about 5-10 minutes per side depending on the strength of the broiler.
8. Place roasted tomatillos and juices from the pan into a food processor and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped Serrano chiles and process until smooth.
9. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
10. Add the tomatillo puree and boil, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes (it should turn thick like a paste).
11. Add in the chicken broth, stir to mix well. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture coats the back of a spoon and is reduced to about a cup (240 ml).
12. Stir in the chicken and cilantro. Salt to taste.
13. Prepare the dough. In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium high heat, cream together the lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder and salt.
Mix in the masa harina, one cup (240 ml) at a time.
14. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add in 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of the chicken broth.
15. If the mixture seems too thick (you can taste it for moistness) add up to ½ cup (120 ml) more of the broth 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time. (The dough should be a cookie dough like texture).
16. Take 3 large corn husks and tear them into ¼ inch (6 mm) strips. (I would suggest you put these back in the water until use because they dry out and start breaking when you try to work with them.
17. Take a large pot with a steamer attachment. Pour about 2 inches (5 cm) of water into the bottom of the pot, or enough to touch the bottom of the steamer. Line the bottom of the steamer with corn husks.
18. Unfold 2 corn husks onto a work surface. Take ¼ cup (60 ml) of dough and, starting near the top of the husk, press it out into a 4 inch (10 cm) square, leaving 2-3 inches (5 -7½ cm) at the bottom of the husk. Place a heaping tablespoon (15 ml) of the filling in a line down the center of the dough square.
19. Fold the dough into the corn husk.
20. And wrap the husk around the dough.
21. Fold up the skinny bottom part of the husk.
22. And secure it with one of the corn husk ties.
23. Stand them up in the steamer. If there aren’t enough tamales to tightly pack the steamer, place crumpled aluminum foil in the excess space.
24. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk.

Vegan Black Bean and Green Chile Tamales:
Servings: About 12 tamales
Ingredients
1 – 8 ounce (225 grams) bag dried corn husks
For the filling:
1 – 15.5 ounce (440 gm) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 14 ounce (400 gm) can diced tomato with green chiles, drained
1 – 10 ounce (285 gm) can diced green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) garlic salt
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm/ 1/10 oz) ground cumin
For the masa dough:
4 cups (960 ml) (480 gm/17 oz) masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
2 ½-3 cups (600-720 ml) vegetable broth
½ cup (120 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1¾ gm) salt
Directions:
1. Follow the directions from the above recipe for soaking the corn husks.
2. Make the filling. Combine all ingredients for the filling in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Make the masa dough. Combine the olive oil, salt and masa mix in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until combined.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add 2 cups (480 ml) of vegetable broth. If the mixture seems to dry (you can taste it for moistness at this point) add more broth 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time.
5. Follow the directions in the above recipe for filling and cooking instructions.

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One response to “Tamales (Daring Cooks Challenge Jan 2012)

  1. I remember this dish chiefly for the effort that went into finding the ingredients. Masa Harina was a particularly difficulty. I tried going to a large out-of-town supermarket. They were sure they had it in stock recently, but after much searching they concluded it was a discontinued item. Why are Mexican ingredients so hard to come by while at the same time Mexican restaurants and take-away places are all the rage? Anyway, well done on making this dish. Hopefully you’ll be happier with your next Mexican effort.

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