The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is fast approaching, and families all throughout Mexico will be cooking the favorite foods of their lost loved ones. The will either take the food with them to the graveyard when visiting their lost family members, or place it on altars built at home for them. On of the most common things people cook are tamales, like these Tamales de Rajas. The mellow flavor of the Queso Fresco makes a perfect match with the spiciness and smoky flavor of the roasted Poblano peppers. Not everyone fills them with Poblano peppers, though, as some cooks use Serrano or jalapeño peppers. I used Queso Fresco in this recipe, but you can use pretty much any of the other Mexican Cheeses. The key ingredient is the cheese.
Mexico has a vast variety of tamales, and the different fillings and ways of preparing the corn dough (masa) make each tamal special. In Central Mexico, cooks use a special corn masa (dough) to prepare these tamales. The corn dough is usually processed at local establishments called “Molinos de Nixtamal”, where they grind the corn into a coarse texture. Tamales made using this coarse dough are really light and fluffy. For all of you living outside Mexico, you can still use Corn Flour for Tamales, since it also has a coarse texture. You will love these tamales for breakfast, lunch or dinner, they’re perfect at any time of day.
MAKES 12 TAMALES
FOR THE DOUGH
- 2/3 cups of Lard*
- 2 cups corn flour for Tamales
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 3/4 cup warm chicken broth
- Salt to taste
- 3 Poblano Peppers
- 1 Queso fresco or Queso Ranchero
- 1 1/4 cup of Salsa** (recipe HERE)
- 16 Corn Husks, plus extra to tie the tamales and for the steaming pot.
Extra salsa and Mexican Cream to drizzle your tamales.
* I’ve made these tamales using vegetable oil instead of lard, and they still come out really great. Just make sure your broth is full of flavor since the lard gives lots of flavor to the dough and without it, it’ll taste plain.
** You can also use Salsa Verde. Make extra salsa for serving along with the tamales when ready.
1. Roast the Poblano peppers, either in your broiler or on a stove top flame. Place inside a plastic bag for 3 minutes to steam.
2. Gently remove skins and seeds from the Poblanos ,with your hands then cut them into strips.
3. Place corn husks in a large stock pot filled with hot water to soften. Once softened, drain them and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the lard until it’s fully, about 6 minutes. After beating the lard, add the corn flour for tamales along with the baking power. Mix well using an spatula.
5. Pour the warm chicken broth and mix well until you form a soft dough. Keep mixing for about 5-6 minutes. The dough has to be soft and fluffy. Season with salt.
6. Chop the Queso Fresco (cheese) into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl.
7. Gather the dough, salsa, cheese, peppers strips, and corn husks to assemble the tamales. Place a steamer in a large stock pot or line with aluminum foil at the bottom. Cover the rack with corn husks. Fill with hot water just bellow the steamer rack. Place a small coin at the bottom of the pot, that way if the pot needs more water, the coin will rattle and make noise. When adding more water to the pot, make sure to add it as close to the wall of the pot as possible.
8. To form the tamales, using a large spoon, spread about 3 tablespoons of corn dough. Then add 1 tablespoon of salsa. Top with some pieces of Queso Fresco and Poblano Peppers strips.
9. Fold the right side of the corn husk to the center of the Tamal and do the same with the left side. Fold over the narrow end of the husk towards the center and tie the tamal using a thin strip of corn husk. Repeat this process to from all the tamales.
10. Place the tamales inside the already-prepared steamer and cook for 60 to 65 minutes. Check steamer occasionally and add hot water as needed.
11. To check if the tamales are ready, remove one using kitchen tongs and place on a plate. Let it rest for 5 minutes. If the husk doesn’t stick to the tamal when removed, then your tamales are ready.
Serve with red or green salsa. ¡Buen provecho!