Let me say again, please don’t be intimidated by the length of this recipe. I really wanted to make sure all the steps I follow are documented as best I can. Although the process is lengthy, it really is quite easy and really enjoyable if you make a day of it by inviting family and friends to participate.
Assembly of the Tamales:
- Lay the softened corn husk on your work surface. You want to use the natural cup in the husk to your advantage. (Sides up)
- Using a rubber spatula apply anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/3 cup of the Masa down the center of the corn husk. This amount is only approximate, as the size of the husk will determine how much you will need. Start at the pointy end of the husk, measure about 1 inch away from it to start spreading your Masa. Spread the Masa from that point to the wide end and from side to side. Leave about 1/4″ inch bare on each side. You want the Masa to measure an eyeballed 1/4″ inch in thickness. (Please don’t worry about being exact, it’s not an exact science, I promise.)
- Now lay a tablespoon or so of the shredded chicken down the center of the Masa. (Again just eyeball this, no need for measuring.)
- Sprinkle a small mount of the Queso Fresco over the shredded chicken.
- Roll the corn husk from one side to the other. Make sure the Masa from one side touches down in the space between the end of the meat and the end of the Masa on the opposite side. Continue to roll completely to the end of the husk. Roll firmly but not tightly as the corn masa needs room to expand while it is steaming.
- Take the pointy end of the corn husk and fold it up the seam side of the tamale. Secure it with a corn husk tie you cut early by simply tying them off.
- Slightly pinch the open end of the tamale to prevent meat from being pushed out during the steaming process.
- Layer some softened corn husk in the bottom of your steamer basked. Place the assembled tamales standing open end up in the basket. The basket must be above the water, you don’t the water to touch your tamales, only the steam. Loosely stack the tamales side by side where they will stand and not fall over, but not so tightly together that the steam cannot penetrate them.
- Add water in your steaming pot. Make sure you have at least 1/2″ inch clearance from the steaming basket. Place the tamale filled steaming basket into the pot. Place a layer of softened corn husk over the stacked tamales. Cover with the pot lid, bring water to a boil, then lower heat and steam by simmering an hour for 1 dozen tamales.(You may need to add water during the steaming process. You don’t want your pot to boil dry.) I generally make 4 to 5 dozens at one time so my cooking time is as follows. 30 minutes bringing water to a boil. Steam for 1 hour, check water level and more if necessary. Steam for another hour, check a test tamale, add water if necessary. Steam for another 30 minutes if necessary. Remove pot from burner, remove lid and let the tamales set and cool in their basket over the pot for 30 minutes.
You’ll need to check your tamales to make sure they have been steamed fully. To do this take 1 tamale from the basket. Let it rest 10 minutes, unroll it a small bit, make sure the Masa is cooked firm, if it’s not, re-roll the tamale, place back in the basket and continue to steam them. Re-check after another 30 minutes. Depending on the amount you are steaming, the method and the size of the burner you are using it may take longer to steam all of your tamales.
Tips & Suggestions: I’ve steamed my tamales a few different ways. I’ve used a traditional pasta pot with a steaming basket. This method was sufficient except I could only fit a dozen or so tamales in at one time and I continually had to add water. Then I tried using my canning pot, lined the can rack with foil to hold my stacked tamales. Great room, dozens of tamales fit, but my home burner wasn’t large enough to keep the water simmering enough to create an even steam. Then Mark came up with this great idea.
We now use our counter roaster. Previously the only thing we cook in this roaster is a turkey, but its perfect for dozens of tamales. We place a few rectangle ramekins in the bottom, this way the roasting rack could sit on top of them. Pour enough water in the bottom to reach halfway up on the ramekins. Loaded the roasting rack on top of that. Lined the rack with the softened corn husk, then placed a broiling pan top on top of that. Stacked our tamales, covered them with more softened corn husks and placed the lid on. I turned on the roaster, gave it 30 minutes to come to temperature and starting timing after that. Two and a half hours later we had 5 dozen tamales that were all steamed beautifully. Thanks to my guy Mark.
If any of you have a question regarding making tamales please feel free to ask me. I hoped I covered every step, but realize I may not have been clear enough. If you love tamales, you’ve got to try making some for yourself.