Tamales have been fiesta food since pre-Hispanic times, when they were considered a gift from the gods during the twelfth month of the Maya eighteen-month calendar year. Because this time coincided with the Spanish conquerors' celebration of All Saints Day, the tamale became the food displayed and eaten in honor of all those who had died. This version, however, is sold every morning and late afternoon at special puestos (tamales stands) in Mexico City.
4-6 chiles serranos
13 oz (410 g) tomates verdes, husks removed
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) chicken stock
1/2 cup (3/4 oz/20 g) cilantro (coriander)
1 tablespoon oil
2 chicken breasts, about 12 oz (375 g) each, cooked and shredded
30 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water until pliable
4 cups (20 oz/625 g) masa
1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) melted lard
- Cook the chiles in a saucepan of boiling water for 4 minutes. Add the tomates verdes and cook 2 more minutes. Drain and transfer the chiles and tomates verdes to a blender. Add the garlic and chicken stock, then purée. Add the cilantro and process briefly.
- Heat the oil, add the onion and sauté until transparent. Add the tomate verde purée and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, stir, cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a little chicken stock. Set aside.
- Place the masa in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon salt and knead for 2-3 minutes. Add the melted lard and knead 5 minutes more.
- Spread out a corn husk, place 1 1/2 tablespoons of masa on it and flatten the masa with the palm of your hand so that it covers a 2-by-3-in (5-by-7.5-cm) square, leaving a 1-in (2.5-cm) border on all sides. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cooked chicken on top. Roll the husk lengthwise, then fold up the base and fold down the pointed tip by about one-third. Set aside the prepared tamales so that the filling does not leak out.
- Put 4 cups (32 fl oz/1 l) of water in the bottom of a steamer and cover the basket with a layer of corn husks (about 8). Set the tamales in the basket upright and slightly inclined so that the masa does not slip to the bottom. As soon as the water comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for 1 hour (25 minutes in a pressure cooker) or until the masa does not stick to the corn husk when a tamale is unrolled.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
MAKES ABOUT 20 TAMALES