Makes 18 tamales
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, excess fat removed
1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon sea salt
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)
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
For chicken filling:
- Place all of the ingredients in a large stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover chicken entirely.
- Place pot over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken registers 165° on an instant-read thermometer.
- Carefully remove chicken from the broth; reserve broth for tamale dough. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Shred chicken meat, and set aside.
For red chili sauce:
- Place chiles in a medium bow. Pour 3 cups of boiling water over, submerging chiles completely in water. Soak for 2 hours.
- Place the soaked chiles into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to cover chiles (no more than 2 cups). Puree until smooth.
- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skin and seeds, pressing on solids to push sauce through the sieve.
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.
- Add 1 cup of Red Chile Sauce to the shredded chicken, tossing to combine. 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 1 level tablespoon of the chicken mixture 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. Check water level periodically, and add more water if needed. Serve with additional Red Chile Sauce on the side.
Ground bay leaves may be found in the ethnic aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin-foods markets.
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.