My grandfather died in a December day so many years ago that I hardly remember him. But since then the whole family used to gathered together the same day in December at the farm. We call that ‘Cabo de año”. It is a ceremony or religious service performed on the anniversary of a person’s death. Our family had a mass service at night but during the day it looked more like a family celebration. I have memories of those gatherings been like a big party. There were so many relatives to count all of them. There was a prayer time in the evening that will be the culmination of the day of remembrance. But for me, the big attraction will be the cooking going on in the kitchen. The men will arrive very early in the morning to kill the pig. Yes, a large pig that has been fed the whole year for this purpose. Part of the animal will be cooked as Carnitas and Chicharrones and some for the different stew dishes that will be served during lunch. But after that, all the women and some men of the family will get into the main dish for dinner. Making tamales. Everyone will be working together for the “Tamalada” ( a tamale making party, well sort of….)You could hear stories being told from times long gone, funny ones and even scary ones, during those Tamales making time. That is the fun part of making tamales that the family get together to make them as a family affair and you have a nice time not only eating them but making them. But if you want to cook tamales and your relatives are far away, invite your neighbors or you friends. You will have a memorable time cooking together.
Tamales are traditionally made of a corn base dough, it’s Nahuatl name is: tamalli. Meaning wrapped corn. It is steamed in a leaf wrapper. The most common wrapping is a corn husk , a banana leave , avocado leave, hoja santa , and other non-toxic leaves used in some regions of Mexico. The wrapping is discarded before eating. There are more than 500 varieties of tamales but like a sandwich your imagination is the limit. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste. One time while cooking tamales at my aunt house we run of the filling and start looking into the fridge to see what else can we use as a filling. There were some leftover beef tips in a Mexican style sauce and that is what we used to finish it up the rest of the dough. Those tamales were the best of that batch.
- 5 cups of dry masa harina for tamales
- 13 ounces of lard (1 and 3/4 cups)
- ( You can use shortening and even vegetable oil)
- About 6 cups of chicken broth of more in case dough is too dry
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ pound of chicken breast (to make about 4 cups of shredded chicken)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 thick slices of onion
- water to cover
- 1 ½ pound of tomatillos (green tomatoes) husk removed
- 6 serrano peppers or 4 jalapenos
- 2 cloves of garlic peeled
- Salt to taste
- About 45 Corn husk for wrapping
Cooking the chicken:
- Place the chicken, onion, and garlic in a pot. Cover with water and over medium heat until meat is tender. Cool and shred the chicken.
- Mix with the chicken with the sauce in a bowl and set aside.
and garlic in the blender and puree until smooth.
For the dough:
The corn husk:
Remove the husks from their warm bath, dry with cloth or paper towels.
Place the corn husk in your work surface with the wide end facing towards you. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of dough in the center but closer to the bottom of the corn husk spreading evenly. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chicken-green sauce filling in the center of the husk. Fold one side of the husk to the center and fold the other side to the center, too. Fold the bottom towards the center. Repeat process with remaining husks and filling.