This past weekend happened to be my hubby’s birthday. He requested a specific dish that I made 3 months ago and asked for only that. What was the dish you ask? Well, tamales. Even though I am 1/2 Mexican, I really did not learn how to cook authentic dishes at home. We mostly cooked dishes that were either concocted by my mother or it was Italian or Mediterranean.
When I decided to make tamales 3 months ago, I thought I would call my grandmother in Mexico and ask her specific questions about ingredients and assembly method. You know what she told me? “Honey! Don’t fret yourself. Go to the store and buy some already prepared. It is too much work.” I literally laughed out loud! I mean it is one thing not being in the same country where your maternal grandmother lives, but not to have these recipes to pass on to my kids! Well, the next step for me was to find a recipe and make it my own, adding ingredients that my grandmother would use.
Tamales are different depending on each region of Mexico. Northern tamales are normally made with corn husks and southern tamales are made with banana leaves. Yes, banana leaves. I know that the Asian culture also uses banana leaves for different dishes so there are many simliarities. Since I did not have banana leaves so I decided to use the corn husks instead with my own twist for fillings. The newer process to me was making a vegetarian version for myself. It was really easy and did not take so much time additional time.
Before I begin let me tell you that you need to set aside 2 days for the whole preparation. Of course if you start early on one day, you could get the tamales done in a day, but my process felt better with 2 days. The first day dealt with preparation and the second day focused on assembly and cooking time. The total time for the process is 5 hours total. If you do not want to make the mole sauce, then your time would be cut to 4 hours. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but this is the reason I told my hubby I would only make these for special occasions. Besides, the recipe gives you about 40 tamales and they freeze well. It is not a meal that takes SO much time and is immediately consumed. These are great leftovers!
Chicken and Vegetarian Tamales with Red Mole Sauce
makes 40 tamales
Step by step instructions5 cups vegetable broth ( I used vegetable bouillon cubes)
On day 1, take a whole bag of dried corn husks and soak in cold water. It you want to make on the same day, it can be soaked for up to an hour, otherwise they can soak overnight. When removing from water, dry each husk with a paper towel and set aside.
Fry 5 roma tomatoes, 2 small onions, 4 garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil for 10 minutes or until the skins on the tomato start falling off. Cool mixture and remove tomatoe skins. See pic below.
Next, take 6 chile ancho peppers and 5 chile guajillo peppers and remove stems and remove seeds. Wash the peppers over cold water and dry. On a medium high, toast the peppers until a litle brown on the skin for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in a bowl and cover with hot water for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast 2 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds and 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds until browned. Place in a coffee grinder and grind until it looks like a seed meal.
Liquefy the mixture and pass through sieve. Sauce should be in a saucepan after going through sieve. Add 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, seed meal, 1/4 cup Taza cinnamon/chocolate pieces, 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon. Simmer mixture for 30 minutes.
Boil 6 chicken breasts with 4 bay leaves and 3 garlic cloves for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Cool and shred chicken. In a separate sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup corn oil, 5 Tbsp chili powder, 2 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1/2 Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp salt. Heat for 5 minutes and then pour over chicken and mix thoroughly. Cool and cover and refrigerate.
In a separate bowl, add 2 pounds of instant corn masa and place the following spices: 3 Tbsp paprika, 3 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp cumin, 3 Tbsp Chili Powder, 3 Tbsp garlic powder. Mix flour and spices well. Add 2 cups of corn oil to flour mixture. After incorporating oil, slowly incorporate 5 cups of vegetable broth. I use my hands so I can get a good arm work out. It is a lot of dough, but I guess it can be done on a dough hook on your Kitchen Aid.
For the vegetarian filling, saute the following ingredients for 10 minutes:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pint mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, julienned
1 poblano pepper, chopped
3/4 cup leeks, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
On day 2, assemble the tamales. It is so much faster if you add the masa to all the husks first and then add the filling. Cover 2/3 of the wider portion of the husk leaving the 1/3 space from the narrower section on top and side. See picture below. Masa should be 1/2 inch thick.
Add 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of chicken depending on size of corn husk.
Add 2 Tbsp of veggies to 12 tamales. I did not make as many for myself.
Roll each tamale, without overlapping the corn husk. It is like a taco on the inside.
Then fold the bottom portion to seal each tamale.
The sealed section should be facing down. Place in a double steamer with water that does not overflow into the steamer. The tamales cook for 2 hours, so continue to check the water and refill as to prevent evaporation. After 2 hours, remove tamale from steamer, let cool on a plate for 3-5 minutes and remove corn husk and serve. Add mole sauce and enjoy!
- 5 Roma tomatoes
- 2 small onions, diced
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Taza cinnamon chocolate disc
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 6 Mulato chiles
- 5 Guajillo chiles
- 6 chicken breasts
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup corn oil
- 5 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 2 lbs instant corn masa
- 3 Tablespoons paprika
- 3 Tablespoons salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
- 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 cups corn oil