15 corn husks, hydrated
15 banana leaves cut into small squares that can fit inside corn husk
15 banana leaves cut into strips to tie around tamales
3 1/2 cups masa harina
3 cups very hot water
1/2 pound of lard
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup cotija cheese, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons salt
Tomatillo Chicken Filling
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
8 tomatillos, quartered
1/2 yellow onion, rough chop
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 serrano pepper, halved and seeded
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, mix the masa with the hot water until evenly moistened. Add the cheese and knead several times to make a smooth dough. Remember to not be afraid of getting your hands dirty; your hands are some of the best tools in the kitchen.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the lard with the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the salt and baking powder, and beat at medium-low speed until it has been incorporated, about 2 minutes.
While the machine continues to mix the ingredients, add the masa in four batches. Continue beating and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the masa is smooth.
Pour in the chicken stock and beat until the masa is soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Wrap the tamale masa in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. The masa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Before assembling the tamales, return the masa to the mixer and beat the dough at high speed for 1 minute.
Tomatillo Chicken Filling
Preheat the broiler. On a sheet tray, add yellow onion, garlic, tomatillos, and serrano peppers. Drizzle some olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Broil the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they get charred around the edges. Place the serrano, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and tomatillos in a blender and blend until smooth. In a large sauté pan, combine the tomatillo mixture and the shredded chicken, and heat through.
Set aside in a bowl to cool.
The Building Process
Before wrapping the tamales, make sure the dried corn husks have been hydrating in a bowl of water. This will make them easier to work with. Once the corn husks have softened, place one small banana leaf square in the center of your corn husk. With a spoon, scoop a heaping spoon full of masa and fill the corn husk. Fill the center, leaving the top and bottom sections free of any masa. Add some of the tomatillo chicken filling right in the middle, making sure there is enough room and masa to wrap around the filling.
Once you have filled the corn husk, fold the sides and the bottom into the middle. Do not fold the top part down. You want to keep that open to let some steam out.
With the extra strips of banana leaves you cut earlier, tie the tamale around its waist. Do not tie the tamale too tight; you don’t want to give the tamale an hourglass figure. You just want to make sure it’s tightly sealed.
To begin steaming the tamales, locate a large lidded pot. Use a metal strainer at the bottom of the pot to keep the tamales above the water. You don’t want the tamales getting wet. Fill the pot up to the metal strainer and add a pinch of salt to the water. Stack the tamales inside the pot, standing up, with the open end facing the top. Do not lay them on their side. Turn the burner on the stove to high and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pot with the lid. Steam the tamales for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking the water level every 15 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.