Tamales Verdes de Pollo: Tamales with Chicken and Tomatillo Sauce


Tamales Verdes de Pollo: Tamales with Chicken and Tomatillo Sauce

Another of the outstanding dishes we were served at our Foodists launch at South China Seas. I’ve had tamales, but seldom have they been as fresh as these. Don and his wife Joyce prepared them in advance and then steamed them at the event. Despite our almost uncontrollable need to eat these, Don made us wait ten full minutes post-steaming for the masa to firm up. Simple, delicious food with guest-impressing potential. Recipe makes 30 tamales.

3  Ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
2  Mullato chiles, seeded and stemmed
2  Chipotle morita chiles, seeded and stemmed
1 small piece  Piloncillo (equivalent to about 2 Tbsp)
1-1/2 lbs  Tomatillos, husks removed and washed
1/2  Onion, thickly sliced
2  Serrano chiles, seeded
1  Garlic bulb
5 – 6 sprigs  Cilantro, stems removed
1 Tbsp  Mexican oregano (which is not oregano, and has a completely different flavour)
1 Tbsp  Sea salt
Water or stock
3 lbs  Shredded cooked chicken
2 Tbsp  Aniseed, toasted and roughly ground


8 cups  Chicken stock, well seasoned and simmering
4 cups  Masa harina
1-1/4 cups  Lard (or 1/2 cup of unsalted butter and 3/4 cup of vegetable shortening)

30 squares  Banana leaves, about 10″ square, plus trimmings to the line the steamer and for strips for tying the tamales (make longer ties by knotting two strips together)
Lightly toast the dried chiles (ancho, mullato, chipotle morita) and soak them, along with the piece of sugar, in a small amount of hot water in a covered bowl for about 20 minutes – turn the chiles periodically to ensure they moisten evenly, adding a bit more hot water if needed.

Broil the tomatillos, onion slices, serranos and garlic bulb on a baking sheet lined with foil (to hold the juices from the tomatillos) until well charred but not burned black. Charring times will vary – remove items as they are done, and turn the onion, garlic bulb and tomatillos as necessary.

Remove cloves from the garlic bulb. Rough chop the onions. Blend the dried chiles and sugar along with their soaking liquid, the charbroiled vegetables, cilantro, Mexican oregano and salt until fairly smooth, adding a bit of water or stock only if necessary for blending. Combine blended sauce with the chicken. Check for salt.
Bring stock to a medium boil, and whisk in masa harina gradually (It’s easier to do this if one person pours while another whisks). Reduce heat and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon. Mix in the lard in 3 or 4 batches, beating vigorously (preferably with a hand mixer), until well incorporated.
Place banana leaf pieces on a work surface, smooth side up and spread 3 – 4 Tbsp of masa into a rough 3″ X 4″ rectangle on the center of each leaf in the direction of the ribs on the leaf. Spoon about 3 Tbsp of chicken mixture down the center of the masa. Sprinkle a pinch of aniseed over the filling. Fold the sides of the leaf snuggly over the masa and the filling, then the ends and tie each tamal closed with two strips of banana leaf.
Place tamales in a steamer cover with banana leaf pieces and the lid and steam for about 1-1/4 hours. Allow the tamales to rest off the heat for 15 or 20 minutes. When done, the masa will be set and will pull away easily from the leaf when unwrapped. Tamales may be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for six months if properly wrapped. Steam to reheat – 10 to 15 minutes if refrigerated, about 30 minutes if frozen.

Recipe Copyright © 2009, Don Dickson / South China Seas Trading Co. Limited


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