For the meat filling:
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 3 roasted chicken thighs, shredded
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
For the wrappers:
- 10-12 dried corn husks
For the cornmeal dough:
- 1 pound yellow cornmeal
- 3 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3 3/4 ounces lard, approximately 1/2 cup
- 2-3 cups warm chicken stock
(tamales are a light, fluffy corn meal based dough steamed inside a corn husk or banana leaf. You can find both versions in CR, usually combined with spices and shredded chicken.)
Place a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are semi-translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and spices and continue to cook for another minute. Add the meat and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place the husks in a large bowl or container and submerge completely in hot water. Soak the husks until they are soft and pliable, at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Place the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and combine. Using an electric mixer, cream the lard and add the dry mixture, gently kneading until it is fully incorporated. You can also add the lard and using your hands, knead together until the lard is well incorporated into the dry mixture. Gradually add enough of the stock, to create a dough that is like thick mashed potatoes. The dough should be moist but not wet. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside until ready to use.
To assemble the tamales:
Remove a corn husks from the water and pat dry to remove excess water. Working in small batches, lay the husks on a towel and spread about 2 tablespoons of the dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in a line down the center of the dough. Roll the husk so the dough surrounds the meat, then fold the bottom under to finish creating the tamale. Repeat until all husks, dough and filling are used. Tie the tamales, around the center, individually or in groups of 3, with kitchen twine.
To cook the tamales:
Stand the tamales upright on their folded ends, tightly packed together, in the same saucepan used to cook the meat. Add the reserved broth from making the dough and any additional water so the liquid comes to 1-inch below the tops of the tamales. Try not to pour the broth directly into the tops of the tamales. Cover, place over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 12 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, to maintain a low simmer, and cook until the dough is firm and pulls away easily from the husk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve the tamales warm. For a ‘wet’ hot tamale, serve with additional simmering liquid. Store leftover tamales, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer, for up to a month. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and steam until heated through.