Just to prove that I can cook something other than Italian food, I set out to make tamales last night. You might be thinking that's a little ambitious, because with the corn husks and whatnot tamales aren't exactly easy. But thanks to a Food & Wine Annual Cookbook I don't think I had ever opened before, I found a quick tamale recipe that makes them easy (and sans corn husks).
Quick Chicken and Cheese Tamales
2 cups masa harina (find it with the flour in the baking aisle)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups cool water
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Hot sauce, for serving
In a food processor, pulse the masa harina with the baking powder and salt. Add the water and pulse to moisten. Add the shortening in clumps and drizzle with chicken stock. Process until smooth and evenly blended. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and stir in chicken and cheese (and cilantro and scallions, if using ... I skipped them).
Tear off 12 squares of plastic wrap. Spoon about 1/2 cup tamale mixture in the center of each, and press each into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Fold the plastic up to make packets.
Arrange the tamale packets seam side down in a steamer basket. Steam over 2 inches of boiling water for 25 minutes. Remove from packets carefully. Serve with hot sauce.
I was a little worried about this recipe for a couple reasons:
1. I halved it because there was no way Bill and I could eat 12 tamales.
2. I don't have a traditional steamer basket so I decided to use my rice cooker, which also functions as a steamer.
Turns out there was no need to worry about either of those things! Halving the recipe worked out really well, and yieled 6 perfectly portioned tamales. I always get nervous about scaling recipes down, especially when you're dealing with something like a dough. But the masa harina was really easy to work with. My rice cooker also made a perfect steamer (good to know!).
And now, with my remaining masa harina, I'll be trying homemade tortillas :)