In Latin America, the traditional Christmas fare is tamales. Tamales originated in Mexico but today, every Latin American culture has its own version. While tamales vary from country to country, all are made with a corn or rice dough steamed inside a leaf. Most tamales are filled with meat and sauce, but some are sweetened and filled with raisins. Making tamales is a labor-intensive process that can take several days. Watch how the residents of Santa Teresita make their tamales.
Allow two days for preparation.
4 lb. package of maseca for tamales (available at Hispanic grocery stores)
10 lb. chicken pieces
3 c. oil
4 T. salt
4 T. baking powder
1 package each of chiles anchos, chiles California and chiles de arbol
1 lb. corn husks
Prepare the chiles
1. Pour hot water over all the chiles and let soften for one hour.
2. Puree the mixture in a blender.
3. Strain through a colander to remove seeds and skin
You may want to wear vinyl gloves because the chile oil can burn your hands.
Prepare the chicken
1. Remove the skin and boil the chicken with salt until the meat is cooked.
2. Remove the bones and tear the chicken into small pieces.
3. Saute chicken pieces with the strained chiles in 2 T. oil and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.
Prepare the masa (dough)
1. Mix maseca, baking power, salt and oil with enough lukewarm water to give it the texture of playdough.
2. Knead the dough for one hour.
Prepare the corn husks
1. Soak the husks in hot water overnight.
2. Remove from the water and rinse.
Prepare the tamales
1. Spread one husk out flat.
2. Spread with a thin layer of masa, about Ω inch thick.
3. Add 1-2 T. of the chile/chicken mixture in the middle of the dough.
4. Fold all sides to the center, adding a bit of dough inside the ends to keep the chicken mixture from oozing out.
5. Steam in 2î of water in a large pot or tamale cooker covered tightly with aluminum foil for several hours on medium high.
6. Let sit for 1 hour
Enjoy with sour cream and hot sauce. Eat them anytime, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tamales can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator or for 3 months in the freezer.
In Mexico, tamales are eaten traditionally during the Christmas season with champorrado, a hot, spicy drink made with maseca.
Recipe courtesy of Martha Cromer