A couple weeks ago I was asked to whip up a tamale spread for the good folks at Municipal Wine Makers. This being the Christmas tamale season I jumped at the chance to share some masa love with friends.
Chile Verde Chicken Tamales are a holiday classic; tender chicken stuffed inside a fluffy masa shell and drenched in green tomatillo salsa will bring just about anyone to the table and actually, my friends, go great with wine. Muni has some great options too (I’m especially fond of their sparkling selection) so check them out.
If you’re new to the tamale game this recipe is a great place to start. They are no less labor-intensive (that’s why you should always make them with friends…and wine) but they are pretty straight-forward, chicken, salsa, masa, wrap. I like to make a double batch of the salsa so I’ll have more to serve the tamales with. Other garnishes can include Mexican crema or sour cream, crumbled Cotija, pickled onions, and/or radishes tossed with lime juice and salt.
If you’d like a step-by-step tutorial on how to make tamales see this post for more photos and detailed description of each step.
- 1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 pounds tomatillos
- ½ white onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 jalapeños, stemmed (seeds removed if you’d like it less spicy)
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 1 small bunch cilantro, tough stems removed
- For the tamales:
- 40 dried corn husks
- 6 cups Maseca corn flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups lard or vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
- 6-7 cups chicken cooking liquid or store-bought broth
- Rinse chicken and remove any neck or giblets (save and freeze for later or discard).
- Place in a large stock pot with remaining chicken ingredients and cover by an inch or so with cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook until chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, about 1-11/2 hours.
- Remove chicken to a baking sheet and let cool. Strain broth into a clean stock pot, discard solids. Keep broth warm to use in the masa.
- When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces removing any bone, skin, or fat, set aside.
- Combine tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapeños in a large saucepan. Cover with water by an inch or so and bring to a boil. Cook until tomatillos are soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.
- Drain and transfer vegetables to a blender, let cool slightly then add salt and cilantro and carefully blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt as needed.
- To make the Tamales:
- Soak corn husks at least 2 hours in advance in hot water. Use a heavy plate to submerge husks in water.
- Combine Maseca, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add cubed lard or shortening rubbing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it in very small pieces. Add 5 cups of reserved chicken cooking liquid and mix into a dough making sure all Maseca has been incorporated and there are no dry spots. It is best to mix together with your hands so you can feel any dry Maseca.
- Add more liquid if the masa is too dry, you want it to be easily spreadable but not runny, like fluffy mashed potatoes. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
- Fill a tamale steamer with water just until it reaches the rack where the tamales will sit. Use a few of the small or ripped soaked corn husks to line the rack. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn heat to medium and keep covered.
- Dry a soaked corn husk with a clean kitchen towel. Hold the corn husk with the wide end toward you. Using a large spoon or tamale spreader, evenly spread about ½ cup masa from the middle of the husk down leaving about ½-inch border on the sides.
- Place about 2-3 tablespoons of chicken and 1 tablespoon of chile verde down the middle.
- Fold one side of masa over the filling until the two edges of the corn husk meet, and holding onto one side of corn husk, pull the other side toward the middle to press the two edges of masa together. Fold the pointy end of the corn husk up over the large end, and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat with remaining corn husks.
- Place tamales vertically, open-side up in the tamale steamer, keeping them snug in the pot so they don't unravel during cooking. Make sure water is at a steady simmer and producing lots of steam. Cover tightly and steam until masa is cooked through and not doughy in the middle, about 45 minutes. Check occasionally and add more water if the pot looks dry.
- Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pot. Tamales can also be left in the pot, covered with a clean towel (and then covered with the steamer lid) for up to an hour before serving. They will stay warm and soft if you want to make them in advance.
- Serve with remaining chile verde.
Holiday Tamale Menu
Chile Verde Chicken Tamales
One More Thing
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Photos courtesy of David Mendoza