Chicken & Salsa Verde Tamales

You can freeze the tamales, uncooked or cooked, in resealable plastic bags. Either way, they can go straight from the freezer into the steamer. If you’re heating up just a few cooked tamales, place them in a bowl and cover with a wet paper towel, then microwave them until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
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tamale party setup

Recipe by Marcela Valladolid

Start to Finish: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Servings: Makes about 40 tamales

Ingredients

Masa

  • 45 dried corn husks

  • 3 cups lard

  • 6 cups masa harina (instant corn flour)

  • 1 tbsp. baking powder

  • 3 cups chicken stock

Green Chicken Filling

  • 3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 9 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 6 bay leaves

  • 3 lb. tomatillos (about 24), husked and rinsed

  • 6 jalapeño chiles, stemmed

  • 1 small onion, halved

  • 3/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro tops

  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preparation

1. Place the corn husks in a large pot. Add enough very hot water to cover the husks. Weigh down the husks with a plate. (The husks should be submerged.) Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and cover with very hot water. Let the husks stand until soft, at least 30 minutes more. 

2. For the masa, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the lard on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the masa harina. Beat until well blended, about 2 minutes more. Add the baking powder and 2 tbsp. salt. Continue beating until well incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add the stock. Continue beating until the masa is thick, soft, and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and let rest while preparing the filling. 

3. For the filling, in a large pot, add the chicken, garlic, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand until the chicken is just cool enough to handle. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a work surface. Shred the meat. 

4. For the salsa, add the tomatillos, chiles, and onion to the cooking liquid in the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until the tomatillos are dark green, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos, chiles, onion, and garlic to a blender. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and the cilantro. Blend the salsa until smooth. 

5. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the chicken. Cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the salsa. Cook, stirring often, until heated through and the flavors meld, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt. 

6. Drain the corn husks. Peel 1 long thin strip from each husk and set aside for tying the tamales. Hold a husk in your hand with the smoother side up and the narrow end at the bottom. Spread about 3 tablespoonfuls of the masa on the husk to form a 2-by-4-inch rectangle. Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of the filling down the center of the masa. Fold the sides of the husk over the filling, then fold up the bottom of the husk; tie with a strip of husk. Repeat with the remaining husks, masa, and filling. (There are extra husks because some may tear.) 

7. Place a steamer basket inside a large pot; fill with a few inches of water. Place the tamales upright in the steamer, openend up. Bring the water to a boil. Cover with a towel, then the lid. (Fold the towel on top of the lid to keep it from catching fire.) Steam the tamales over medium-low heat for 1 hour. (Add water to the pot as necessary. Do not allow the pot to boil dry.) After 1 hour, open a tamale and check for doneness. The tamale should be firm and pull away from the husk without sticking. If the tamale sticks to the husk, continue steaming, checking every 15 minutes, until the tamales are done.