Tamales are my mom's favorite and I really wanted to make them for her. I was a little intimidated by this dish, since I've never made anything like this, but I was lucky enough to have my mom's sous chef assistance (her chopping skills are elite) and my abuelita's help and supervision. It was a lot of work but definitely rewarding and a lot of fun. The tamales came out pretty good for my first time; they may have needed a little more salt, but with some practice I will make sure I master this recipe soon.
Ingredients for 12 Tamales
1 white onion
1 large tomato
1 bell pepper
4 oz of steamed chopped carrots
4 oz of steamed peas
1 1/2 lbs of peeled white corn
1/4 lb of lard
6 chicken thighs
Approx. 4 cups of chicken stock
Fresh banana leaves
2 tablespoons of achiote
Hard boiled eggs
Spanish manzanilla olives stuffed with red peppers
Rinse the corn throughly and ensure all of the seeds and peels are removed; soak in water overnight. Drain and rinse the corn again before cooking.
Prep the chicken thighs by trimming off the excess fat. Season with Abuelita's aliño, achiote & olive oil.
Boil in salted water with 1/2 an onion and garlic for about 15-20 mins or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
Shred and set aside.
Note: Do not throw out the chicken stock! You will need this for the masa.
Boil the corn in salted water either in a pressure cooker or in a deep pot on the stove. The pressure cooker will only take about 20 mins to cook Vs boiling in a pot for 1 hr+, either way works.
Once the corn is cooked, rinse one more time in cold water and blend in food processor with 2 heaping tablespoons of lard and warm chicken stock as needed.
After the corn is blended and the masa begins to form, knead in 1 tablespoon of achiote, Abuelita's Aliño and salt/pepper to taste.
At this point, you may need to add a little more of lard and/or warm chicken stock for the right consistency (it shouldn't be dry). My abuelita let me know that my great-grandmother Herlinda would check the masa by grabbing a piece and rubbing it on the banana leaf to see if it made it shiny from the lard. If it did, then it was ready!
Finely chop the remaining half of the onion, tomato and bell pepper and make the refrito with a tablespoon of lard.
Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of achiote, abuelita's alino, salt and pepper to taste. Mix throughly.
Add in the shredded chicken and cook for 3-5 mins; until the liquid is reduced and has thicken. Let cool.
Putting it all together:
Prep the bananas leaves: lightly toast over a high flame for a few seconds on each side. Make sure the leaves don't burn, but are just lightly toasted. This helps makes the leaves a bit more pliable and easier to work with.
Wipe the leaves down with a dry washcloth.
Grab a small ball of masa and mold into an oval shaped bowl with a pocket left for the filling. Make sure the sides aren't too thick, as the tamale will expand when cooking.
Add the shredded chicken, a few peas + carrots into the pocket; optional ingredients: 1 manzanilla olive, a slice of hardboiled egg and a few raisins.
Close up the tamale and make sure there is no filling showing.
Wrap in a banana leave and steam (baño Maria) in a large pot for 1 hr.
Note: Place a layer of banana leaves under + covering the individual wrapped tamales in the pot while steaming.
TIP: For re-heating, you can steam again or lightly toast in a pan with salted butter.