Tamales are the perfect dinner party project. Invite friends over early to sip some cocktails and cook these little guys. Tamales can be made with lots of different fillings, but these are our favorite: Slick tomatillo salsa on masa dough and tuck poblanos and chicken inside for a steamy and tasty tamale.
To learn more, read "Masa Appeal."
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 18 tamales
Prep Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus soaking time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, plus resting time
Total Time: 3 hours, plus soaking and resting time
For the Wrappers:
2 dozen dried corn husks
10 cups boiling water, for soaking
For the Chicken-and-Poblano Filling:
4 whole chicken legs, skin on and bone in (about 2½ pounds)
1 small white onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Handful cilantro sprigs
1 bay leaf
4 medium poblano peppers (about ½ pound)
½ cup tomatillo salsa, plus more for serving
For the Dough and Tamales:
3 cups masa harina
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
? cup (5¼ ounces) lard, cut into ½-inch pieces at room temperature
2 cups hot chicken broth
1. Prepare the wrappers: In a large bowl, cover the corn husks with the boiling water, using a small plate to completely submerge the husks. Soak the husks until soft and pliable, 1 hour.
2. Make the chicken-and-poblano filling: In a large saucepan, combine the chicken legs, onion, garlic, 5 teaspoons of salt, black peppercorns, cilantro and bay leaf. Cover with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
3. While the chicken is cooking, roast the poblanos: Adjust an oven rack to the upper position and turn on the broiler. Arrange the poblanos on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil the chiles, flipping once, until the they are blistered and charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. Peel, seed and slice into ½-inch strips, season with salt and set aside.
4. When the chicken is cooked through, remove it and strain the broth. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred and season with salt to taste. You should have 2½ to 3 cups of shredded chicken. Pour enough broth over the chicken to keep it from drying out. Set aside 2 cups of broth for the tamale dough and keep warm. Store the remaining broth in the freezer for another use. Do ahead: The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance.
5. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the masa harina, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Begin mixing on medium speed and, one by one, drop the lard pieces into the masa harina. Beat until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and, in a slow and steady stream, add 1¾ cups of the broth. Increase the mixer to medium speed and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and squeeze some dough with your hands to check consistency. The masa should feel like Play-Doh. If the dough feels very wet, add more masa; if crumbly and dry, add more broth. Transfer the dough to a clean surface and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
6. Assemble the tamales: Drain the husks and pat dry to remove excess water.
7. Working in batches of 6, with the short tapered end of the husks facing away from you, spread ¼ cup of the masa dough in the center of each husk into an ⅛-inch-thick rectangle, leaving ½-inch between the masa and the edges of the husk. Spread 1 teaspoon of tomatillo salsa in each center and top with 1 tablespoon of chicken and a couple of poblano strips. To package each tamale, fold the two long sides of the husk inward with one overlapping the other, enclosing the masa dough around the filling. Fold down the top tapered end of the husk, then pull the bottom end up, creating a small package. Using kitchen twine, tie the tamales around the center, so that they remain closed. Repeat until all the dough and filling are used.
8. To cook the tamales, fill a large, wide saucepan with 2 inches of water and set a steamer basket inside. Line the steamer and sides of the saucepan with corn husks. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a simmer. Place the assembled tamales inside the steamer basket, folded-side down, stacking if need be. Reduce heat to low, cover and steam, adding water to the pan as the steaming liquid evaporates. Cook until the masa filling pulls away from the husk, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the tamales rest for 5 minutes before serving with tomatillo salsa on the side. Make ahead: Tamales can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Unwrap and steam until heated through.