What are your Christmas food traditions? Eggnog? Gingerbread? A favorite Christmas cookie perhaps? In our house it’s just not Christmas until we have a freezer full of tamales. I wish I could say there was a one and only tamale that I make every year, but to be honest there are too many versions to pick just one and every year I like to try something different but chicken tamales are usually on the menu in some form or another.
This year I settled on a little combo I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Chicken tamales with roasted cubes of pumpkin and a sweet and spicy mole made from charred pineapple, spicy chipotle chiles, and ripe plantain called Manchamantel.
If making tamales seems too overwhelming, host a Tamalada!
A tamalada is a tamale-making party where everyone chips in on the chore of assembling the tamales and gets to take a dozen or so home when it’s all over.
Follow these steps to make the perfect tamale!
First things first, gather all you ingredients. If you are making these chicken tamales, have the chicken cooked and shredded, the mole and masa made, and the pumpkin roasted.
Soak the corn husks.
Dried corn husks can be found at any Mexican market and the ethnic aisle of some grocery stores or you can buy them online here. They will need about 2 hours to soak in hot water.
After the husks have soaked wipe each one dry on both sides.
Set aside any that are smaller than a hand-width wide or any that are torn. Don’t throw them away though you can use them to line the tamale pot or tear into smaller strips to tie the tamales together if you’d like.
Fill your tamale steamer with water up to the rack where the tamales will sit. I use a 15.5-quart tamale pot like this one, but you can also use a large lidded stock pot fitted with a steamer rack on the bottom. Line the rack with a few soaked corn husks and put it on the stove to boil. Spoon about 1/3- 1/2 cup of masa onto a cornhusk. Make your own masa following the directions below or purchase prepared masa (masa preparada para tamales) at your local Mexican market. Masa preparada is made from fresh ground corn instead of dried cornmeal.
How to Spread
Using a large spoon or a tamale spreader and spread masa evenly over the bottom half of the cornhusk, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on the sides.
Fill with about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin and 2 tablespoons of chicken in the middle.
I used sugar pie pumpkin, but any winter squash would be delicious. You want enough filling to get a little chicken and pumpkin with each bite.
Spoon about a tablespoon of mole sauce over the chicken.
Don’t be skimpy with the sauce, not enough and the tamale will be dry. It’s okay if a little drips out the top when you are rolling them.
How to Roll
Using the clean edges of the corn husk, bring the two sides of the masa together to enclose the filling. Press the two sides of masa together to seal.
Tuck one side of the cornhusk over the masa and pull back gently to make a snug cylinder.
If you’ve ever rolled sushi you will be familiar with this move.
Roll the husk up and fold the pointed end down.
Place the tamale with the folded-side down and repeat until you have enough tamales to fill the pot. If you want, you can wrap each tamale individually in parchment or waxed paper at this point, place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze to steam later. They will keep uncooked in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Now, steam away!
Place the chicken tamales with the open side up in the tamale steamer, stacked against each other so they don’t fall and become unraveled. You want there to be a lot of steam but not boiling away, adjust the heat accordingly.
Let the chicken tamales cool
About 10-15 minutes, then unwrap and dig in! If saving for later you can let them cool completely then pack into resealable plastic bags. They will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or 2-3 months in the freezer.
Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram! Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me.
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