These tasty tamales are a bit time consuming to make, but they are total worth the effort. They're salty and satisfying and have a wonderful sweet corn flavor. And the texture of these tamales is just amazing! The masa cooks up so soft and smooth but still manages to have a slight chew. It's just divine.
You can fill these tamales with a variety of different things: cheese, pulled pork, leftover chicken fajita filling, you name it! But whatever filling you choose, make sure that it is thoroughly cooked BEFORE you put it in the tamales. Also, you may need to chop your filling into small pieces to get it to fit into the tamales.
The tamale construction process is a little bit hard to explain in words, but you can find a really good video of the whole process here. (Thanks Alton Brown!)
This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown's turkey tamale recipe:
30 dried corn husks
1 3/4 c (7.5 oz) masa harina
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp cold butter (cut into cubes)
1 to 2 c chicken broth
1 1/2 c filling of your choice
1. Soak the corn husks in warm water for at least 2 hours. I do this by filling my kitchen sink with warm water, submerging the corn husks in this water, and then throwing a clean, wet dish cloth on top of the corn husks. The dish cloth weighs down the corn husks and ensures that they stay under the water.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Using your fingertips, rub the cold butter into the masa harina mixture until it is well incorporated. Mix in the chicken broth a little bit at a time until the dough has the consistency of thick mashed potatoes.
3. To assemble the tamales, take a corn husk and place it on the table so that the short end is toward you and the concave side is up. Using the heel of your hand, spread out a tablespoon of the masa mixture into an even layer across the wide part of the corn husk, leaving about 1/2 inch between the masa and the top of the husk. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of the masa and then use the husk to shape the masa around the filling. Roll the corn husk around the tamale, making sure that one end of the husk is tucked under the other end. Fold up the bottom end of the corn husk and then tie a string around the whole tamale so that it won't unroll when it cooks. Repeat this process for all of the remaining corn husks.
4. Put a sturdy metal steamer basket into a large stock pot and fill the pot with water, making sure that the water level stays below the basket part of the steamer basket. Put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and steam the tamales for about 1 hour, making sure to check the water level every 15 minutes or so and adding more water to the pot as needed.
- In case you didn't know, you're not suppose to eat the corn husks! They are just a wrapper that helps the tamales to steam up properly. Unwrap the tamales from corn husks before you eat them and throw the husks out.
- Cooked tamales freeze very well. Just throw the tamales, still wrapped in their corn husks, into a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months. To reheat them, steam the tamales for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are thoroughly warmed.