Tamales de rajas con queso (Poblano peppers and cheese tamales)

October 26, 2010

Recipes from our recent cooking group.

Tamales Filled with Poblanos and Cheese


Makes 30-36 small tamales.

About 40 dried corn husks

12  ounces pork lard, preferably fresh
1 1/2 pounds harina para tamales (do not use instant masa)
2  cups chicken broth (if needed)
Sea salt to taste

1 1/2   cups Salsa Verde
5  large poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and cut into strips about 3/8-inch wide (to make 2 cups of strips)
1  pound Mexican manchego, Chihuahua or muenster cheese, cut into small bars about 2 1/2 by 1/2inches

Soak corn husks in water for at least an hour, longer if they are very tough, until pliable. Begin bringing water to boil in a tamale steamer so that it is ready to go when the tamales are filled.

Put the lard into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed until very white and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the tamale flour, beating very thoroughly after each addition. (If the flour is dry, alternate adding it with the chicken broth; if wet, you won’t need the broth.) Add salt to taste and test the masa by floating a bit on a glass of water — it should float on top if it is ready.

Dry corn husks by spinning in a salad spinner, or shaking well to dispel all water.

Spread a large tablespoonful of the masa in a very thin layer over the top part of the husk, leaving a 1/2-inch margin, and down about 3 inches. Put 1 1/4 tablespoons of the Salsa Verde down the middle of the masa, two chile strips, and a piece of cheese. Fold the edges of the husk over so that the dough covers the filling and fold the spare part of the husk toward the back (it’s OK for the other end to remain open). Set the prepared tamales on a tray while you assemble the rest. Work as fast as you can so that the sauce is not absorbed by the masa.

When the water in the bottom of the tamale steamer is boiling, spread a layer of extra corn husks in the top part of the steamer. Place the tamales in the steamer upright, folded side down, firmly but not too tightly on top, to allow for expansion. If you need to do this in layers, let the bottom layer cook for 10 minutes to set before you continue stacking. Cover with more husks or thick toweling, and a tightly fitting lid. Cook tamales over a brisk heat for about 1 1/4 hours. To test for doneness, remove one of the tamales and tap lightly; it should feel spongy and resilient, and when opened up the dough should separate easily from the husk. Even thoroughly cooked, the masa will be slightly textured.


RECIPE #2 Rajas Tamales from Tortilleria Nixtamal (Makes 40 tamales)

2 cups masa “para hachaer tamales”
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups homemade or low sodium chicken stock, warmed
1½ cups manteca or vegetable shortening, at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 fresh poblano chilies, chopped
1-2 dried ancho chilies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
5-7 dried chipotle chilies, soaked in hot water for minutes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt


3 poblano chilies
5-7 jalapeno chilies (depending on desired spiciness)
2 plum tomatoes
5 tomatillos
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ball Oaxacan cheese, pulled into rough one to two-inch pieces
30-40 natural corn husks, soaked in warm water for two hours

Prepare the masa. In a large bowl, combine the masa with the salt. Add the chicken stock a little bit at a time, using your hands to incorporate it. Add the manteca, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the masa is the consistency of peanut butter. Cover and set aside. Prepare the salsa. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the tomatoes and poblanos. Cook, stirring, 15 minutes or until softened. Meanwhile, remove the stem and seeds from the dried chilies and roughly chop. In a blender or food processor, puree the tomato–poblano mixture with the chopped chilies, cumin, garlic and salt until smooth. Return the sauce to the skillet and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat broiler. Place chilies, tomatoes and tomatillos on a cookie sheet a single layer. Broil, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let stand 5 minutes allowing the steam to separate the skin from the flesh. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin, seeds and stem from the chilies. Cut the chilies into thin strips and set aside. Remove the skin from the tomatillos and tomatoes, dice and add to the chilies. In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in hot olive oil, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add the chili/ tomato/ tomatillo mixture with all of the juices. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove pan from stove and set aside. Assemble the tamales. Remove husks from water and pat dry. Place in a plastic bag to keep moist while you’re working. For each tamale, spread 2 tablespoons of the prepared masa on the corn husk, leaving 3 inches free at the top and bottom. Place 2-3 pieces of cheese in the center of the masa, then top with 1 tablespoon of the filling and 2 teaspoons of the salsa. Fold the wide end of the husk over the filling, followed by the narrow end, wrapping the sides around the back to form a package. The filling should be encased in masa and the dough covered by corn husks. If any masa remains showing, use an extra husk or two to tightly wrap the tamale. Place all tamales snugly in a large saucepot fitted with a steamer insert and filled with one inch of hot water. Steam over low heat for at least 1 hour, replacing liquid as needed. Serve with leftover salsa.



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