Makes 18 tamales
4 large fresh pasilla peppers (may substitute poblano peppers)
2 medium russet potatoes
4 medium carrots
1/2 (1-pound) bag frozen sweet peas
2 pounds queso fresco
3 1/2 cups masa harina (see Cook’s Notes below)
1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening at room temperature
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 to 4 cups of reserved chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
24 dried cornhusks, soaked in boiling-hot water for 2 hours
Favorite chili sauce or salsa
For vegetable filling:
- Place the 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 the peppers in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steam in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Gently peel away the skin. Cut off the tops of the peppers, and discard the stems and the seeds. Cut peppers into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide.
- Peel the potatoes, and place them into a bowl of cold water. Cut each potato into strips 3 inches long and 1/2-inch square. Return potato strips to the water until ready to use.
- Peel the carrots and cut them into strips 3 inches long by 1/2-inch square.
- Place the frozen peas in a sieve, and run under hot water until they turn bright green.
- Crumble cheese and place in a small bowl. Set aside.
For tamale dough:
- Place masa harina and lard or vegetable 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, a cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes.
- 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 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 your favorite chili sauce or salsa.
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 ethnic aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin-foods markets.