Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack

Hatch Chile and Cheese Tamales

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One of my grandmother’s dearest friends and a dear family friend in general, Delia, used to make the most amazing tamales for us every year around New Years.  Originally from Mexico, Delia would whip up her family’s tried and true tamale recipe and bring the components (masa, meat filling and corn husks) over to our house to be assembled.  All the kids would sit around the kitchen table and smear the masa onto the soaked corn husks, fill them with just the right amount of savory filling and then wrap them up so Delia could stuff them into the steamer to be cooked.

A few years ago I tried my hand at making tamales and they came out ok.  Not amazing but ok.  Everyone else who ate them really liked them but to me, they were missing something.  The masa just wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.  In all of the tamales that I have ever swooned over the masa was always moist, fluffy and flavorful.  Mine tasted ok but they weren’t moist or light enough.  The filling came out pretty good but I knew that the masa had to be right in order for the filling to shine to.  So recently I decided to put my defrosted hatch chiles to good use and also make a tamale that I could be proud of.

Putting spices and salt in the masa is key. Without this, it’s pretty freaking bland.

To get this right I found four or five tamale recipes, read all the reviews and then pulled together some of the key ingredients and steps that seemed to put a masa in a 5 Star category.  One consistent recommendation was to hydrate the masa before adding the fat.

There were so many suggestions for what kind of fat to use. I had made bacon the day before so I decided to use the rendered bacon fat mixed with shortening for my masa. The bacon fat alone was way to liquidy and the shortening lacked flavor so I figured the two together might be a winning combo.

All the recipes that got high marks said to whip the fat so that it was light and fluffy. My bacon fat and Crisco concoction got soooo light and fluffy… I was feeling really good at this point about my choice of fats.

When mixed with the fat, the masa had a hummus like consistency and it smelled amazing. I decided to fill them with my hatch chiles and some Oaxacan cheese.

Shortly before I got to the assembly stage of the tamale making process my friend Paige stopped by.  It was pretty late at this point, around 9pm, (sometimes I do these little food projects after work so they go late into the night) so the extra set of hands was greatly appreciated!!

10pm weekday tamale making party!!! Drinking wine with your friend while making yummy food is a great way to spend an evening.

Those are some legit looking tamales, am I right?

Tamales go in the steamer for about an hour after they are assembled and then they can be frozen for later enjoyment. These bad boys didn’t even make it a week before being completely devoured.

With Paige’s help the tamales were steamed and ready for QA at about 11:30pm.  They made a delicious midnight snack.  The masa was moist, falvorful and fluffy.  The cheese and chiles were the perfect complimentary filling.  Oaxacan cheese just melts so perfectly.  I was extremely proud of these tamales and I’m excited to have this recipe to go back to for the next time I decide to make them and I’m also excited to share it with you.

Delightful Recipe

Serves Makes about 20 tamales
Adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Packages dried corn husks
  • 3 cups of Maseca (harina for tamales and tortillas)
  • 3 cups veggie or chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup of fat – fat rendered from 1 lb of uncured bacon plus enough vegetable shortening to measure 1 cup
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups of chopped hatch chiles
  • 3 cups of Oaxacan cheese
  • Put the dried corn husks in a large pot with enough water to cover.  Cover the pot and heat over medium heat until the water starts to simmer.  Cut the heat and let the corn husks soak in the hot water.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the masa harina with the garlic powder, paprika and cumin.  Then add 2 cups of the stock until well combined and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl combine the fat, salt and baking powder.  Beat the fat mixture on high speed with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.  This might take a couple minutes.
  • After the masa has rested and the fat is nice and fluffy, start adding the masa into the fat in four additions.  Beat well and add the remaining cup of stock in between each addition of masa until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the masa is the consistency of thick hummus.
  • Now take out some of the soaked corn husks, chosing the ones that don’t have any holes in them, and spread a layer of masa out over the corn husk.  Drop about a Tablespoon of chiles and one or two pieces of cheese in the middle and fold the corn husk over so that the masa is wrapping the filling.  Then fold the ends under and set the tamales in a large steaming basket.  You want to make sure your tamales are wrapped tight and that there are no holes in the husk because the masa and the filling will drip out while they steam if there are holes and it will make a big mess.  It’s not the end of the world but it’s just better to be careful while filling and wrapping them.
  • Once the steaming basket is full of tamales, set it in a pot of boiling water and let the tamales steam for an hour.
  • Remove tamales from steaming basket, unwrap and enjoy!

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