December 2009

John Sedlar’s Tamale Recipe

Basic Fresh Tamale Masa

12 ounces vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾—1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 pounds masa quebrada para tamal sin preparar (dried field corn in a lime solution ground into a fine paste) from your local tortilleria

In an electric mixer combine the shortening, baking powder and salt and beat on high for about 5 minutes until the texture is light. Lower the speed of the mixer and slowly drop in balls of masa one at a time. After all the masa is integrated, beat on high speed for another 5 minutes. If the masa is dry or cold, you can begin drizzling in the stock before you’ve added all of the masa. Slowly drizzle in the remaining stock. Continue to add stock until the masa is airy and light like cake frosting yet still forms peaks and has body.

Banana Leaf–Wrapped Turkey Tamale with Simple Guajillo Chile Sauce

3 pounds basic masa (see recipe above)
1 ½ pounds cooked turkey breast, shredded (You can roast a small breast yourself or purchase one already cooked from the supermarket.)
8 guajillo chiles
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons sea salt
15 banana leaves, cut into 10-by-10-inch squares

Stem, seed and devein the guajillo chilies. Bring a small saucepan half filled with water to a boil and add the chilies. Cook the chilies over medium heat for 30 minutes. With a pair of tongs, transfer the chilies to a blender. Add salt and chopped garlic. Turn blender on low and slowly drizzle in the stock, taking care that the chilies are all pureed. Place the shredded turkey in small bowl and stir in the guajillo sauce.

Over an open burner or on a comal, using tongs, gently cook the banana leaves until tender and pliable—about 20 seconds each side. When cool, place each banana leaf on a cutting board and in the middle spoon about ½ cup masa, spreading it thinly into a rectangle and leaving about 2 inches all around between it and the edges of the banana leaf. In the middle of the masa, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the turkey mixture. Carefully fold over the opposite sides of the banana leaf onto the masa-turkey mixture to form a flat rectangle. Fold under the 2 remaining sides. Carefully place the tamales in a steamer, shingling one gently over another. Cook over low to medium heat for about an hour.

Gently remove the tamales from the steamer. If you want to serve individual tamales to guests, carefully open the leaves to expose the masa. For a buffet, present all the tamales on a decorative platter or serve right out of the pot.