Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sweet and Savory Chicken Tamales

It is a tradition in Latin America to eat tamales at Christmas, New Year's, and pretty much any special celebration. I did not have time to make tamales on Christmas eve, but today we did make tamales for New Year's Eve. Making tamales is a daunting task, but I find that if you split the work out throughout the day it makes the process a little more manageable.

This year I made both sweet and savory chicken tamales. The savory are filled with chicken, capers, green olives, potato, and peas. The sweet tamales have sugar added to the masa and are filled with chicken, potato and prunes. The chicken is actually a hen, as they are more flavorful. I took some photos throughout the process, they aren't the best, but I think they will help if you've never made tamales before. The recipe made about 3 dozen large tamales.

Notes: Maseca is the brand of the masa harina, this is the only brand I have used and it's available at most large supermarkets. The Banana leaves impart a delicious flavor to the tamales, they can be either fresh from your yard or store bought. Most Latin American or Vietnamese markets carry them, I used four large leaves for this batch. You can use any type of steamer to steam the tamales, I used a tamale steamer I have and a regular pot with a pasta colander inside, then wrapped the whole thing in foil (I couldn't find the lid). When you place the tamales in the steamer do not crowd them too much, I usually make one layer then put a few more tamales on top.

8 cups Maseca, masa harina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 yellow onion, quartered
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 dried chile mulato
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons salt
1 hen
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 medium tomato
1/3 cup sugar
green pimento stuffed olives
2 potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled
about 1/2 cup green peas, frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves

1. In a large stock pot, sautee dried chile mulato in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Wash and quarter chicken and add to the pot and season generously with salt and pepper. Brown Hen over medium heat, turning occassionaly.

2. Add the tomato, bell peppers, onion, and jalapeno pepper to the hen. Completely cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. With tongs remove the vegetables and hen and set aside to cool.

3. With a sieve, strain the stock into a bowl. Carefully remove the oil from the top of the stock and discard. Place the vegetables in a food processor, add cilantro and process until smooth, if needed add a little stock.

At this point you will have the hen already cooked, the vegetables into a puree and the stock for the masa. This would be a good place to stop if you want to do this in parts. Everything could be refrigerated and continued the following day.

4. Shred the hen with your hands and set aside.

5. In a large pot over medium heat combine 8 cups Maseca and about 13 cups chicken stock. (if you do not have enough chicken stock add water to make up the difference). Whisk the stock into the flour, the dough should be smooth and about the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add vegetable puree, 2 tablespoons cumin, baking powder and salt. Cook the dough, constantly stirring until it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot- about 15 minutes, then remove from heat.

6. Assemple all the filling ingredients, banana leaves (wash and dry them), and aluminum foil.

7. Cut a piece of foil about ten inches long, lay it in front of you on the counter. Lay a piece of banana leaf about half the size of the foil over it. Place about 1/2 cup dough over the leaf and make a little trench for the filling. Add some chicken, a piece of ptato, some capers, peas and 2 olives. Pull the banana leaves over the dough to enclose the filling in the dough. Wrap with the foil making a little rectangular package. (be sure to not wrap too tightly so the dough can puff a little when steaming. Repeat until 3/4 of the masa has been used, about 24 tamales.

8. Add 1/3 cup sugar to the remaining dough and mix well. Continue to assemble tamales, changing the filling to chicken, potato and a prune in each. Label the sweet tamales with an "S" etched into the foil.

9. Fill steamer 1/3 full with water. Layer tamales in steamer tray or colander and steam over med-low heat for 1 hour. Allow tamales to cool and serve.

Tamales can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Jack requested to have a photo of himself and I quote "posted up with all the food on the web site." So here it is...we wish you a Happy New Year!!! xx


  1. Wow! I've never seen tamales with so many different items in it. Looks and sounds delicious!

    Happy New Year!

  2. Hot tamales! (sorry, couldn't resist). This looks super yummy. Starting out the new year right!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...