With my first attempt at making tamales at home, I was admittedly intimated and pretty nervous but very determined to learn how to make this Mexican delight. I read a multitude of recipes and watched several hours of YouTube videos for a good month or so before committing to cooking a small batch on my own. The tamales were absolutely delicious and I learned quite a bit during the process. The main trick is to not spread the masa dough too thick on the corn husks, which I learned after steaming them and as I also learned last minute, be sure to spread the dough on the smooth side of the corn husks. I’m proud of the tamales I made and can’t wait to cook a much larger batch next time for sharing.
This recipe is time consuming (much like homemade lasagna) but cooking them is great way to spend a bit of time in the kitchen with your family! Traditionally tamales are made during Christmas just for that reason. You can break the recipe up into a couple of days as the smoked chicken and chili sauce will keep well in the fridge.
4 to 6 Detwiler’s bone in, skin on chicken thighs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
about 1 teaspoon Hickory Smoked Salt, divided
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika, divided
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups Hickory or Mesquite wood chips, soaked
In a mixing bowl whisk together the yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt, and 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika along with a bit of fresh cracked black pepper. In a covered dish, place the chicken thighs and cover entirely with the yogurt mixture. Marinate the chicken in the spiced yogurt in the fridge at least 2 hours to overnight. Prepare a charcoal grill. Remove the chicken from the fridge and rinse off the yogurt marinade. Place the chicken in a mixing bowl and coat with the Grapeseed oil, about a 1/2 teaspoon of smoked salt, half tablespoon of paprika, garlic powder, and a bit of fresh cracked black pepper. Once the coals are ready, add the soaked wood chips directly onto the hot coals. Sear the chicken for a couple of minutes on the hottest section of the grill skin side down (watch out for flare ups!) then move the chicken to indirect heat and continue cooking with the grill covered until the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees, about 30 to 45 minutes. Once the chicken reaches 175 degrees remove from the grill and allow the chicken to cool completely. Once it has cooled, remove the skin and discard (or thoroughly enjoy it like a bit of naughty candy). Debone the chicken and discard the bones. Shred the chicken with a couple of forks or finely chop it. Use in any of your favorite recipes!
TexMex Chili Sauce
6 to 8 garden fresh, organic tomatoes, chopped
1 dried California Red Chili Pepper, soaked then seeded and stem removed
1 dried Guajillo Chili Pepper, soaked then seeded and stem removed
1 dried Pasilla Chili Pepper, soaked then seeded and stem removed
about 5 tablespoons TexJoy Chili Powder
about 3 tablespoons Cumin Powder
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Soak the dried chilies in boiling water at least 30 minutes or until they are reconstituted. Then remove all the seeds and steams. I rinse the seeds off in the water I steep the chilies in. Chop the chilies then set aside. In a medium dutch oven, bring the chopped tomatoes up to a boil. Add in the seasonings and chopped chilies and simmer until the tomatoes are slightly reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes. With an emulsion blender, puree the sauce until completely smooth. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and fragrant, about 20 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings as needed. Use the sauce to cover your favorite enchiladas, add to pulled chicken or pork, or enjoy over tamales.
Smoked Chicken Tamales with TexMex Chili Sauce
Masa dough: I used this recipe except I omitted the pureed corn and added extra broth and fresh lime juice. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/black-bean-sweet-potato-tamale
about 2 cups shredded smoked chicken
1 cup chili sauce, divided
25 to 30 dried corn husks, soaked in hot water about an hour
large steamer or seafood pot
Garnish: chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped fresh parsley, TexMex Chili sauce, shredded Smoked Gouda Cheese
Mix 1/4 cup of the chili sauce into the chicken and set aside. Lay out 1 to 2 corn husks (depending on size), smooth side up on a clean work surface. Spread a thin layer of the masa dough on the top half of the corn husks. Then spread about a tablespoon of the chicken along one side of the masa dough. Roll the husk over the masa chicken mixture like a taco and then fold up the bottom of the husk. Set aside and continue rolling until all ingredients are used. Fill the bottom of a seafood pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Line the bottom of the steamer section with a few husks if you have any leftover. Layer the tamales into the steamer then cover and steam the tamales until the masa is completely cooked about 45 minutes to an hour. When the husk easily pulls away from the tamale, they are done. Garnish the tamales with additional chili sauce, tomatoes, cilantro, and shredded cheese or enjoy them anyway you like.
Note: If you’re like me and need visual instruction the first time you try something new I highly recommend the following how-to video: https://youtu.be/qSyW6JwwDYw
Practice is key and don’t be afraid to follow your own instincts when cooking.