These flavorful savory tamales stuffed with kernels of sweet corn, cream cheese, and spicy chile peppers are a delight to eat. Making tamales is somewhat time consuming, but not difficult. It may take you a little while to get the hang of assembling the first few, but after you catch on, you'll have a whole batch ready in no time.
- 16 ounces/450 grams corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 1 small can (3 ounces or 85 grams) diced green chile peppers
- 16 ounces/450 grams queso fresco or jack cheese (shredded or crumbled)
- 4 ounces/113 grams cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 40 dried corn husks
- 6 cups masa harina (corn flour used to make tortillas and tamales)
- 5 cups warm water (or low-sodium chicken broth)
- 1 teaspoon powdered chile pepper
- 3 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (divided)
- 2 cups good quality pork lard (or vegetable shortening)
Make the Filling
- Put the corn kernels and the diced chiles in a large bowl.
- Add the queso fresco or jack cheese, cream cheese, chili powder, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Use a large spoon or your hands to mix ingredients thoroughly.
- Once the filling is made, set it aside. (This can be done the day before you make the tamales; store filling in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.)
Prepare the Corn Husks
- Go through the corn husks removing any debris. Separate the larger usable pieces from the smaller bits and pieces.
- Place all the husks into a large bowl and cover them warm water. Set a heavy item (like a heavy bowl or mug) on top of the husks to keep them submerged. Allow husks to soak for an hour or until they have rehydrated and become pliable.
- Remove the husks from the water and pat dry.
- Place into a covered dish or a large plastic bag to prevent their drying out. Use only the larger and medium-sized husks to wrap the tamales; the smaller ones can be used for ties or patches.
Make the Dough
- In a mixing bowl combine the masa harina and warm water or broth.
- Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes or so to let the masa soften, then beat it vigorously with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer on low speed until a dough forms.
- Gradually add the onion powder, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt by sprinkling them over the dough as you mix it.
- In a separate bowl, whip the lard or shortening for about three minutes or until fluffy.
- Add the lard to the dough a little at a time, mixing until well combined. The mixture should be about the consistency of peanut butter; if it’ not. add more masa harina or water/broth as necessary.
Assemble Your Tamales
- Lay a husk on a flat surface.
- Spoon on 1 to 2 tablespoons of dough, depending on the size of the husk. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread the dough onto the husk. When spreading the dough, leave a space of about 4 inches from the narrow end of the husk and about 2 inches from the other end.
- Spread the dough up to the edge of one of the long sides and 2 inches away from the other long side. Try to keep the dough approximately 1/4 inch thick all over.
- Spread a couple of spoonfuls of filling down the center of the dough, leaving at least one inch of dough around each side. Locate the long side with a 2-inch space with no masa.
- Fold that over, slightly overlapping the other side so the edges of the dough meet. Wrap the extra husk around the back. Then fold the broad end over the top and then the longer narrow end over the broad end.
- Create strips by cutting or tearing ¼-inch wide lengths off of some of the smaller husks. Use these strips to tie across the middle of the tamale to hold the flaps down.
Cook and Serve the Tamales
- Set tamales upright in a steamer. (You can buy large steamers made just for this purpose, or you may already have something else you can use to create the same effect. The key is to have a small amount of boiling water on the bottom of the pot and a colander or mesh of some sort to keep the tamales away from the water.) Steam for about 90 minutes.
- Let tamales cool, still in the steamer, for at least an hour before serving; they will firm up during this time.
- Serve tamales for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Unwrap one and place on a plate to serve, discarding the corn husk wrapper. Eat with a fork.
Edited by Robin Grose