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Oaxacan Chicken Tamales with Chile Rojo Salsa

Serves: Filling for about 3 dozen tamales

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces dried Guajillo chile peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, meat shredded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Chile Rojo Salsa (recipe follows)


Procedures:

To a large skillet set over medium heat, add the chiles and toast, turning often, until skins begin to blister and chiles are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chiles to a cutting board and remove stems and seeds.

Transfer the chiles to the bowl of a blender, or food processor fitted with a metal blade and add water, tomatoes, spices, and garlic. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Return the sauce to the skillet set over medium-high heat and add chicken and bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to a sauce-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves, taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Open a bag of husks and soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes before making tamales. Weigh them down with a pan or heavy plate to keep them submerged. Rinse to remove any dust or silks, and stack them in a large mixing bowl covered with a clean, damp kitchen towel.

There are many ways to wrap tamales, including a single tie or a double tie. The easiest and fastest way to wrap tamales is to fold them on three sides and place in the steamer, open ends up, without tying.

To assemble the tamales, lay the corn husk flat, rough side down and the tip pointing away from you. If it’s a small husk, place two together, overlapping them a bit. Spread about ⅓ cup masa preparada (recipe follows) in the center of the bottom part of the husk, using moistened fingers or the back of a spoon, smooth dough to about a ⅓-inch thickness. Top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling. Fold the two long sides of the husk towards the middle so that the masa forms a tube around the filling. Fold the pointed tip of the husk down over the filled section. The filling end will be exposed, but the masa will set and protect it during steaming.

Place the tamales in the pot or steamer standing upright or stack them by placing one layer facing in one direction and the next at a 90 degree angle, leaving space for steam to circulate around each. Place the lid on the pot/steamer and bring the water to a steady simmer. Watch the pot for water level and top of with additional water as needed. Keep a pot of boiling water on the stove to add as needed to the steamer. Check for doneness after about 1 hour by peeling back the husk. If it comes off smoothly and the masa is firm, you tamale is done. If not, rewrap it and place it back in the steamer. Depending on the size and quantity of the tamales, cooking time can take up to 90 minutes. Pressure cookers can steam tamales in about 20 minutes, saving lots of time. However, calculate how many tamales will fit in your pressure cooker first to determine how many batches you will need to pressure cook. For large quantities of tamales, a large steamer pot setup may be preferable to a pressure cooker in regards to timing.

To serve: Remove tamales from husks, spoon salsa over the top, and serve immediately.

Tested and perfected in the Sur la Table kitchen

 
 
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