For many families, tamales are a delicious Christmas Eve tradition, with the process of making them with family and friends – scooping and smearing the dough, wrapping in corn husks and snugly tying – an endearing custom.
In this video, Disneyland Resort Chef Martha Sigala shows how she makes a vegetable tamale, basically a dumpling made with masa (hominy flour) dough filled with potatoes and carrots, then steamed in a natural wrapper (typically a corn husk or banana leaf). It takes lots of organization, and rolling takes a little practice, but the result is flavorful comfort food worthy of sharing.
Makes 18 tamales
Red Chile Sauce
1 (3-ounce) bag dried California chiles (about 12 to 14 chiles)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch ground bay leaves (see Cook’s Notes below)
4 large fresh pasilla peppers (may substitute poblano peppers)
2 medium russet potatoes
4 medium carrots
1/2 (1-pound) bag frozen sweet peas
1 pound queso fresco
3 1/2 cups masa harina (see Cook’s Notes below)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
24 dried corn husks, soaked in boiling hot water for 2 hours or overnight.
For red chili sauce:
- Place chiles in a medium bowl. Pour 3 cups of boiling water over, submerging chiles completely in water. Soak for 2 hours.
- Place soaked chiles into blender with the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to cover chiles (no more than 2 cups). Purée until smooth.
- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skin and seeds, pressing on solids to push sauce through sieve. Set aside until ready to use.
For vegetable filling:
- Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place under a pre-heated broiler, about 2 inches below the heat. Broil until skin blisters and is charred, turning to evenly char each pepper.
- Place peppers in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steam in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Gently peel away skin. Cut off tops of peppers and discard stems and seeds. Cut peppers into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide.
- Peel potatoes, and place into a bowl of cold water. Cut each potato into strips 3 inches long and 1/2-inch square. Return potato strips to water until ready to use.
- Peel carrots and cut into strips 3 inches long by 1/2-inch square.
- Place frozen peas in a sieve and run under hot water until they turn bright green.
- Crumble queso fresco and place in a small bowl. Set aside.
For tamale dough:
- Place masa harina and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until shortening is evenly distributed through the masa.
- Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes. You may not use all of the broth.
- Lay 1 cornhusk, concave side up, on a work surface. Place about 2 tablespoons tamale dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk. The dough should be about 1/2 inch from the sides, 1 inch from the top and about 3 inches from the bottom.
- Place 2 strips pepper, 1 piece potato, 1 piece carrot, 1 teaspoon peas and 1 teaspoon cheese in the center of the dough. Bring sides up to meet, pinching dough to seal, and then roll tamale into a cylinder. Fold the bottom of the husk up and under. Set tamale seam side down on a baking sheet or large platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
- Add a few inches of water to a large stockpot, and place a steamer basket inside. Place tamales in steamer, stacking no more than 2 high. Place pot over high to bring water to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low. Steam tamales for about 90 minutes, or until the tamales start to separate from the cornhusks.
- Serve with Red Chili Sauce.
- Masa harina (literally “dough flour”) is flour made from dried masa, which is made with sun- or fire-dried corn kernels. Masa harina may be found in the ethnic-foods aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin food markets.
- Ground bay leaves may be found in the ethnic foods aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin food markets.