November 8, 2009

Chicken and Red Chili Tamales


Makes 8 servings

1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into one-inch pieces
1 small onion, peeled and left whole
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 dried ancho Chile, stemmed and seeded
1 cup water
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 whole cloves
About 20 dried corn husks
3/4 cup masa harina
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

Chicken and Red Chili Tamales

With a nine thousand-year history, tamales are among the oldest surviving food concepts. Dating back to Pre-Columbian times, tamales were born from the need to transport prepared food, while hunting, at battle, and during times of migration and celebration. Though tamales are now eaten commonly throughout Latin America, they are also an essential feast day food, and are served as a ritual part of celebrations, known as fiestas.

Directions

To prepare the filling, combine the chicken, the whole onion, one of the garlic cloves, one-half teaspoon of the salt, and enough water to barely cover the chicken in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, 15–20 minutes. Discard the onion. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. Reserve the broth and set aside.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, thinly slice or shred, moisten with a little of the reserved broth and set aside.

Heat a large non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining garlic cloves and the chile; cook until the garlic is golden and the chile is toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the water, tomato, raising, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and one-quarter teaspoon of the salt; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. Discard the cloves.

Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or blender; return to the saucepan and add the chicken. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Combine the cornhusks and enough hot water to cover in a large bowl. Soak, turning occasionally, until pliable, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to prepare the masa dough, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the mesa harina, shortening and the remaining one-quarter teaspoon salt until mixture comes together. Add three-quarters of the reserved broth; beat on low speed until light and spongy, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate the dough about 20 minutes.

Drain and rinse the corn husks; keep covered with a damp towel. Cut 2 or 3 of the husks lengthwise into sixteen (one-quarter inch wide) strips, set aside. Flatten a cornhusk on a work surface; spread two tablespoons dough over the husk, leaving a three-quarter inch margin on all sides. Spoon one and one-half tablespoons filling on top of the dough. Roll up lengthwise into a cylinder; secure each end by tying with a strip of husk. Repeat with the remaining husks, dough, and filling making a total of 16 tamales.

Place tamales in a steamer basket; set in a saucepan over one-inch of boiling water. Cover tightly; reduce the heat to low and steam until very hot, about 45 minutes.

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