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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!

Very thanks for Maranda for this opportunity to make the Tamale. Tamales were on my must do recipes for a while, since I can’t buy any Tamales from stores or any place they sell these because either of the pork filling they use or even the pork lard they use in the masa. So it was one of the recipes on my list to do at home for a long time, but with my busy schedule lately, I couldn’t make it until I saw the challenge and said its time…

Tamales are well-known at this time of the year, and every region of Latin America has it’s own version of the tamales. Served at the conclusion of Mexican las Posadas celebrations on Christmas Eve, family and friends gather together for making tamales. Good tamale is measured by the quality of it’s masa or corn dough. The light airy, with a distinctive billowy texture masa dough is considered the excellent.

Masa, the Mexican word for the corn dough used to make tamales, is a mixture of fat, a leavener, and either masa harina or fresh masa whipped together.
Fresh masa is made from corn that’s first sun-or fire-dried, then cooked and soaked overnight before being rehydrated in pickling lime. finally, it’s ground and pressed into large blocks. It’s perishable from any local Mexican market, so keep it refrigerated.
Masa harina is the dried version of fresh masa. A long shelf life makes it widely available, but be sure to buy the masa harina and not the instant masa, which has fats and leaveners already added.

You don’t need to set a big time in making tamales, make your self free with preparing them in stages. Start with the filling then make the masa dough.

Tackling the tamale is super simple. Corn husks are the tamale wrapper, look for the big ones and set aside the one with holes, these are perfect for tying the tamale after soaking them in water.
Steam tamale in a pot tall enough to allow them to stand up when the led is in place. You can use a vegetable steamer.
Two things critical during steaming tamales, don’t let water touch the tamale or they will be dense, heavy, and water logged. Second, periodically check to see that your water hasn’t boiled away, leaving a dry pot. Add more water if there’s no steam rising when you sneak peak. I used glass cover.

Mexican Tamales

Beef and Corn Chile Tamale Filling:

1\2 cup diced onion
1 table spoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
I large red tomato, seeded and diced
2 poblano chile pepper, roasted, seeded, and diced (less heat than jalapeno, Anaheim, or Serrano but you still can use these if you prefer)
2 tomatillos roasted, skin removed, and diced
1 cup frozen corn, washed
shredded cooked beef (recipes down)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1\2 teaspoon black pepper

Start with roasting the poblanos and tomatillos in the oven, it will take 10 min. under the broiler on 500 f. after roasting take out the outside skin and the seeds for the chile, then dice.
Sweet the onion in oil, uncovered over medium heat,until softened. Add the garlic, sauté a little more, then add the red tomato. Bring mixture to simmer covered for 5 min. Add the poblano chile and the tomatillos, stir and season with salt and pepper. With a blender, blend the sauce until it’s smooth.

Stir in the corn, cilantro and shredded beef, chill in the fridge, the filling must be completely cold.

for cooking the beef:

1 lb beef chuck roast, cut into large cubes
1\2 yellow onion, quartered
4-5 whole black pepper
2-3 whole bay leaves, dried
1\2 stick cinnamon
2-3 whole cardamom

Boil the beef cubes in about 4 cups hot water(using pressure cooker), add all the ingredients, cover and cook the beef for 20-25 min.
Remove the cubes from the broth, reserve the broth for the masa harina dough. Season the beef with salt and pepper. After cooling, shred the beef with forks.

for the masa harina dough:

9 tablespoon cold vegetable shortening, like Crisco
1 stick cold unsalted butter
1 1\2 teaspoon salt
1 1\2 teaspoon baking powder
3 1\4 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon anis seeds
1\2 teaspoon garlic powder
1\2 teaspoon onion powder
2 1\2 cups beef broth
corn husks soaked in hot water

Start with the corn husks. Separate and keep the largest. Place the husk in large pot filled with hot water, keep the husks covered completely with water and set aside to let soak for at least 3 hours.

combine shortening , butter, salt and baking powder for the masa harina dough in the bowl of stand mixer, beat with the paddle attachment until mixture is fluffy and light. Continue beating while slowly sprinkle in masa harina, with the mixer still running, slowly add 2 1\4 cups of the broth, scraping the bowl sides, this will take about 5 min.

Drop a teaspoon of the dough in cold water to test whether you’ve incorporated enough air into the dough. If the dough floats, it’s ready, if not beat the dough 1-2 min more.
Slowly beat in the remaining broth into the masa dough, the dough is ready when it’s the consistency of thick cake batter.Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

working with 1 husk at a time, place a husk smooth side up with narrow end toward you . scoop 1\4 cup masa dough onto upper third of the husk.
spread the dough in a square with 1 inch border between the masa and the top of the husk, wet fingers or spoon works best to spread the dough. Spoon 2 teaspoon of the filling down the centre of the masa dough.
Bring long sides of the husks together, rolling dough over filling to seal it, holding edges of the long sides of the husk together, roll together to encase the dough and filling.Fold bottom third of the husk toward the center, tie in place with a torn strip of husk.

place tamales upright in the steamer, don’t pack the tamales too tight, they need the room to expand. Add extra husk to fill in any open space, cover and reduce the heat and let water to simmer.
Steam the tamales for 1 1\4- 1 1\2 hours. Tamales are done when they’re firm and husks easily pull away from masa.

Serve with salsa verdi, some avocado cubes and crumbles queso cheese on top