Sunday, November 29, 2009


My sister and I thought it would be fun to make tamales for Thanksgiving this year. We had made them together once before and thought they turned out really yummy, so we decided to do a Mexican Thanksgiving.

Tamales are a difficult thing to make. It's kind of something you get better at the more you do it - like an art. Traditionally, Mexican women learn early how to make tamales for their husbands and families. They are made for special occasions, such as parties and holidays.

You start by making a chicken stock with 3-4 lbs. fresh chicken in 2.5 quarts cold water with 1 large celery rib, 1 green onion, 2 carrots, 1 yellow onion, 1 bunch cilantro stems, 4-5 garlic cloves, .5 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring all of this to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

You will use the chicken for the chicken filling. We also put a roast in the crock-pot with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic for the beef filling. You can also do pork (which is what the classic tamale is made of), but we didn't.

The next step is to make the Red Chile Sauce. Mix 5 cups of the chicken broth; 1 lb. tomatoes, quartered; 12 oz. white onions, quartered; 6 cloves whole peeled garlic; 6 oz. dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded; one Tbsp. butter, at room temperature; 1 tsp. salt.

In a stock pot over high heat, bring the stock, tomatoes, onions, and garlic to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes.

Stir the dried chiles into the stock, making sure it covers them. Remove the pan from heat and soak chiles for 15 minutes.

When the mixture is cool, transfer it to a blender until liquefied. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the residue with the back of a ladle to extract all of the chile flavor.

In a large saucepan, reheat the sauce and stir in the butter until it is melted. Stir in the salt.

Now you are ready to add the shredded chicken to half the Mexico Red Chile sauce, .5 tsp. ground cumin, and .25 tsp. cayenne pepper. Do the same with the shredded beef.

Start soaking your corn husks, as they will need to soak in water for 20 minutes before you can use them.

You can either buy prepared masa or make it yourself by using a bag of Masa flour and a 3 lb. tub of Crisco. Mix it all together, then divide into two equal parts. To one part add 1 cup of the beef broth, and to the other half add one cup of the chicken stock. We thought the masa turned out a little too dry, so I would recommend adding more stock. The way to test the masa is to wet your fist in water and press it into the dough; the dough should leave no residue on your hands.

Here are the chicken meat mixture and the beef mixture with the masa mixture.

Next, take a corn husk and place the rough side down, away from you, so that the smoother side is facing you. Place about a quarter cup of the dough on the corn husk. Spread it out over the husk, leaving 1/2-inch borders along the sides. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling down the center of the masa.

This next part we didn't do so well. Lift the sides of the corn husk up to meet each other in the center, and gently press to seal the masa together, making a tube shape that encases the filling. The corn husk should wrap around the roll, but not be embedded in the masa or touching the filling. (We didn't do it exactly like that, but it didn't hurt anything in the outcome.) Fold the top edge of the husk over the end of the roll.

Cover the tamales with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

We put them in this roaster with a couple inches of water in the bottom and covered them with tin foil. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.

Here is the end result with queso, refried beans, guacamole, and chips. We also served stuffed peppers, enchiladas, salsa, sour cream, and rice...

...and pies.

And the girls had to relax with their parents' laptops after a yummy meal.


  1. Very cool! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  2. Thanks, Jenny. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, too!

    P.S. to all: My other sister had the brilliant idea of looking up the masa recipe online instead of trying to wing it by trial and error like we did. *sheepish grin*

    Here are some good links for making the masa



  3. Yes, I suppose it does run in the family. =)