Central American tamales are not our traditional tamales but they are definitely requested more than once per month in my home. I like making these tamales when they are least expected because I know I will have a full house and an empty Tamale Steamer. They are delicious! I do have to warn you though, this recipe takes time to make because of the different steps required, but I guarantee you that the tamales will be delicious and very well worth your time.
You will need:
- Chicken thighs (about 7 pieces)
- 1/2 an Onion
- 1 Cilantro Bunch
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 1/2 a bag Maseca
- 1/2 Cup of Butter
- 1 Spice mix for tamales
- 8 Potatoes
- 1 Jar Green Olives
- 1 Bunch Banana leaves (about 4 full leaves)
- 1 Roll Aluminum foil
- 2 TBS Salt
- 3 TBS Knorr Seasoning
- Oil for Frying
- 1 Large Pot or Tamale Steamer
BOILING AND COOKING THE CHICKEN
Boil the chicken with half an onion, 2 garlic cloves, cilantro and salt. Boil until the chicken is cooked throughly, for about an hour.
*Lets take advantage of this hour to peel and cut the potatoes and leaving them in water until ready to use. To cut and rinse the banana leaves and to pre cut the aluminum foil. Do not throw away the pieces of leaves that you will not use because you will need them for later.
Once the chicken is done cooking you will remove it from the broth and set aside to cool down. Take out about 4 cups of broth and set aside for later use.
COOKING THE MASA
It’s time to get the masa ready. Put the broth back on the flame and add the butter and the knorr, let it boil, add the maseca a little at a time, mixing with a whisk until it dissolves. It will get thicker as you add the maseca and it boils. Once it thickens you will change the whisk to a wooden spoon.
Once it thickens do a taste test and if salt is needed add 1 TBS of knorr to some water to dissolve, then add that mixture to the masa, stir and boil one more time. Do a final taste test. Repeat if needed. Once it boils, set aside and get the chicken ready.
PREPARING THE SAUCE AND THE SHREDDED CHICKEN
Time to get the sauce for the chicken ready. Fry the tamale mix for about 5 minutes or until the seeds are toasty. Add all this mix to a blender with some reserved 2 cups of chicken broth and blend until smooth, if this mix is thick you can add water to thin it out a bit. If for any reason you feel that the taste of the tamale mix is too strong you can add a boiled tomato to the blender and mix together. Play with the taste. I like to add half of the fried mix to the blender with half of the broth and do a taste test after blending. This gives me room to play with the taste. Once you acquire the taste you like, add the chicken to a shallow pan and add the sauce a little at a time making sure you taste throughout the boiling process. Keep adding the sauce a little at a time depending on your liking. Always adjust the taste to your preference. Set aside.
Time to get our steamer ready. If you have a steamer with a removable divider inside, you will add water up to the marker and put the divider back in place. A little trick I was taught was to always place a penny at the bottom of the steamer so I can hear when the water is low, and it has never let me down. As long as there is water boiling you will hear the penny making noise. If that penny stops making noise that’s your signal to add a bit more of water.
Don’t worry if you do not have a steamer with a divider, you can always place some banana leaves at the bottom of the pot and place the tamales directly over them. Just fill half the pot with water after the tamales are inside.
Time to get the banana leaves ready. Place the banana leaves on a hot griddle and press on them with a paper towel for a few seconds, just until you see it change color throughly.
You have the option of heating a few at a time or heat them up all first then fill. I personally like to heat about 6 or 7 at a time. The reason we heat them up is so they don’t break when we fold them. Now that we have the leaves ready it’s get our working station organized.
Organizing helps with the assembly process. You will have the leaves, the aluminum, the masa, the chicken, the green olives and potatoes ready.
Place one banana leaf over the aluminum and place some masa in the middle.
Add the chicken right in the middle. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this. It doesn’t have to be perfect. So, do not get frustrated if it doesn’t look pretty.
Add the potatoes and the olives.
To fold we bring one end to the middle and then we fold again. Now bring the sides together and set aside or put directly in the steamer.
I like to set them aside just so I know how many I have made. But it will be all up to you to decide if you want to put them directly in the steamer as you are making them or set them aside just like me and wait until you are all done wrapping.
Once you are all done and are ready to put them on the stove make sure you seal the top of the layer with some more banana leaves. This is where all those extra pieces of leaves you were saving come in handy.
Place the steamer on the stove on medium to high heat for about 1 hr 30 min. Remember, everything in these tamales is fully cooked except the potatoes. After the hour and thirty minutes, take one tamale out and taste it. If the potatoes are nice and soft then the tamales are done.