chicken tamales – another challenge from the daring kitchen

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

This months challenge proved hard for us because many ingredients were impossible to find here (in Greece). However, trying to think about ways around the problem ended up being very entertaining. Before I describe how I completely changed the recipe, I want to say that the pictures from Jolts & Jollies were amazing and I could tell the attention to detail in the preparation of the dish was amazing. I on the other hand, was ill prepared, and basically had to improvise everything. The only ingredient I actually bought was the chicken… so here is how I cheated my way through the recipe. Tomatillos were nowhere to be found, so what I used were these nice yellow cherry tomatoes that look great. I roasted them along with the onion and some green peppers in the oven with some olive oil, and they came out delicious and sweet. Here is where I am a bit proud of my cheating abilities… no one here even knew about this pastry dough mix, so I had to make it look as good as the pictures. I used butter instead of vegetable shortening and just mixed in some regular flour. Since the masa mix is described as corn tortilla mix in the recipe, (and I was all out of corn meal), I had to find a way to make it look a bit yellow. I remembered that turmeric is used widely in the food industry as a natural food coloring. So I added some along with some mustard powder and the colour came out perfect, not to mention that the flavor they added complemented the filling wonderfully. The biggest surprise came when we actually tried them and they tasted amazing, with the pastry having baked up crispy and full of flavor. I particularly liked the addition of chicken stock in the dough recipe which is something I have never seen before and makes you wonder what tastes better… the filling or the wrap.

– mel

yellow cherry tomatoes & green peppers

(the recipe included is the original & not the altered version that was created)

Green Chile Chicken Tamales:

Servings: About 24 tamales

1 – 8 ounce (225 gram) package dried corn husks (If you cannot find corn husks, you can use parchment paper or plastic wrap.)

For filling:
– 1 pound (455 gram) tomatillos (can sub mild green chilies – canned or fresh)
– 4 – 3 inch (7½ cm) Serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped (can sub jalapeno)
– 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 ½ tablespoons (22½ ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
– 2 cups (480 ml) low sodium chicken broth
– 4 cups (960 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) cooked and shredded chicken
– 2/3 cup (160 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) roughly chopped fresh cilantro (also known as coriander)

For the masa dough:
– 1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (265 gm/9⅓ oz) lard or vegetable shortening
– 1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (10 gm/1/3 oz) salt (omit if already in masa mixture)
– 1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm/¼ oz) baking powder (omit if already in masa mixture)
– 4 cups (960 ml) (480 gm/17 oz) masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
– 1 ½-2 cups (360 ml – 480 ml) low sodium chicken broth

1. Place the dried corn husks in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Place a heavy plate or a smaller pot full of water on top of husks to keep them in the water. Let soak for 3 hours or up to 1 day, flipping occasionally until husks are softened.
3. Once husks are softened, boil chicken about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
4. Immediately place hot chicken into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Turn mixer on high to shred chicken (this takes about 3-5 seconds).
5. Place an oven rack on the top setting. Turn the oven on broil. Peel and rinse the tomatillos.
6. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Place tomatillos on baking sheet and place under broiler.

7. Broil (grill) until black spots form on tomatillos, then flip and broil (grill) other side. This takes about 5-10 minutes per side depending on the strength of the broiler.
8. Place roasted tomatillos and juices from the pan into a food processor and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped Serrano chiles and process until smooth.
9. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
10. Add the tomatillo puree and boil, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes (it should turn thick like a paste).
11. Add in the chicken broth, stir to mix well. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture coats the back of a spoon and is reduced to about a cup (240 ml).
12. Stir in the chicken and cilantro. Salt to taste.
13. Prepare the dough. In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium high heat, cream together the lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder and salt. Mix in the masa harina, one cup (240 ml) at a time.
14. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add in 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of the chicken broth.
15. If the mixture seems too thick (you can taste it for moistness) add up to ½ cup (120 ml) more of the broth 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time. (The dough should be a cookie dough like texture).
16. Take 3 large corn husks and tear them into ¼ inch (6 mm) strips. (I would suggest you put these back in the water until use because they dry out and start breaking when you try to work with them.
17. Take a large pot with a steamer attachment. Pour about 2 inches (5 cm) of water into the bottom of the pot, or enough to touch the bottom of the steamer. Line the bottom of the steamer with corn husks.
18. Unfold 2 corn husks onto a work surface. Take ¼ cup (60 ml) of dough and, starting near the top of the husk, press it out into a 4 inch (10 cm) square, leaving 2-3 inches (5 -7½ cm) at the bottom of the husk. Place a heaping tablespoon (15 ml) of the filling in a line down the center of the dough square.
19. Fold the dough into the corn husk.
20. And wrap the husk around the dough.
21. Fold up the skinny bottom part of the husk.
22. And secure it with one of the corn husk ties.
23. Stand them up in the steamer. If there aren’t enough tamales to tightly pack the steamer, place crumpled aluminum foil in the excess space.
24. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk.
….for recipes actually by us, check out our archives.

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