Tamales are the Christmas food. Every year we see them on our Christmas Eve dinner table (or breakfast in my house!) and every year, they bring me the same joy- they just never get old. Of course depending on where you’re from tamales vary.
In the north of Mexico they are typically made with corn husk, and in the south (as well as Central America) they are made with plantain leaves. Also, depending on your taste they are topped with a red, green or mole sauce. This recipe is pretty basic (and yes, a labor of love too) and can be adapted easily: you can make them with beef, chicken, beans, or pork and any sauce you like. Merry Christmas!
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
*Special equipment: steamer basket
For the masa:
- 4 cups corn masa (preferred: Maseca)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup pork lard- (yep- lard. Gotta use the real deal here folks!)
For the filling:
- 2 pounds cooked beef, chicken or pork, shredded
- 3 cups red sauce (or green sauce or mole)
- 20 corn husks, plus 5 more to line your pot, soaked for at least 2 hours
To make the masa:
Mix the corn masa, salt, baking powder, lard and broth until you have a smooth dough. Add more broth if it is too dry.
For the filling:
Mix the shredded meat of your choice with the sauce.
To make the tamales:
Begin by laying out one corn husk with the tapered side facing you. Spread about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of masa into the wide end forming a 4-inch square. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the meat and sauce mixture in the center of the masa. Fold the corn husk in half to enclose the meat, then roll the husk to seal the tamale. Fold the tapered end of the corn husk up and place the tamale seam side down on your work surface (you can have more than one corn husk to ensure the tamale does not come out while steaming). Repeat until all the tamales are made.
Place 5 corn husks on the bottom of a pan (just make sure you don’t completely cover the bottom or the steam cannot come up and cook them, it may be less than 5 husks depending on the size of your steamer), and set the tamales vertically over them. Be sure not to pack the steamer as the tamales need room to grow. Pour in boiling water until filled halfway and cover. Cook at a low boil for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the masa comes easily away from the corn husks. If water evaporates before it’s ready, add more water as needed.
Let the tamales cool at least 15 minutes before eating. The tamales can also be frozen up to 1 month- just make sure they are completely cooled before you store them in your freezer.
Enjoy these tamales topped with more of your favorite sauce and a warm champurrado!