Salads and Vegetables
In Mexican households, tamales are a sign of a celebration, served during big family dinners on holidays, like Christmas or New Year’s Eve. In these homes, the process of making tamales becomes a celebration in itself. grandparents, uncles and aunts, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters all gather for a fun afternoon dedicated to making tamales. Everyone is assigned a job, and suddenly the kitchen becomes an assembly line; someone spreads masa on the cornhusk, while another spoons on the filling, and third forms the shape and finally the last who ties the tamales closed. After all the tamales are formed and cooked, you sit around the table with your family, take your first bite into the soft, pillowy dough and taste the creamy filling, one thing is certain: all of the work was worth the effort!
Prepare the conhusks:
Fill large pot with water; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Remove pot from heat. Add cornhusks; weigh down with heat-proof plate to keep submerged. Soak until husks are pliable, at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours; strain. Set aside 20 large husks (at least 15 centimeters across on wider side and 15 centimeters long). If necessary, overlap smaller husks to achieve larger length and width.
Prepare the filling:
Meanwhile, heat oil in small pot over medium-high heat; add flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flour mixture comes together and begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken bouillon mixture and salsa verde. Bring mixture to boil, stirring often, until smooth and thick. Remove pot from heat; add cheese. Stir until melted and combined. Set aside to cool. Set aside jalapeños slices in small bowl.
Prepare the dough:
In medium bowl, stir together masarica and hot water. Using hands, knead dough until smooth and soft; cover with damp towel and set aside. In bowl of standing mixer, or in medium mixing bowl using hand mixer, beat lard, baking powder and salt on medium-high speed until lard is light in texture and glossy, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula, about 3 minutes. Add reserved dough in 3 additions, beating to incorporate dough and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Continue beating until dough is light and fluffy, about 1 minute. (To test texture of dough, drop ½ teaspoon into small bowl filled with cold water. If dough floats, it is ready. If not, continue beating on high speed 1 minute more.) Reduce mixer speed to low. Add chicken broth; mix until completely incorporated (dough will have texture of soft cake batter).
Assemble the tamales:
Lay reserved cornhusk horizontally on work surface with wide end to your right and tapered end to your left. Scoop about ¼ cup dough onto center of wide end of husk, and spread with spatula into 10 centimeters square. (Dough should come up to right edge of husk with boarders to the top, left and bottom.) Scoop about 1½ tablespoons of cheese filling into center of dough and top with jalapeño strip. Form the tamale: Pick up the two long sides of husk and bring them together (batter will surround filling), then roll in same direction to enclose filling. Finally, fold up the empty bottom section of tamale (leaving top open), and secure flap in place by tying with kitchen twine or strip of leftover cornhusks. Transfer tamale to steamer basket, with open top of tamale pointing up. Repeat with remaining husks, dough and filling to make 20 tamales.
Steam the tamales:
Add about 2 centimeters water to pot of steamer. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add steamer basket filled with tamales to steamer (making sure bottom of steamer does not touch water). Cover tamales with leftover cornhusk, then cover pot tightly with steamer lid. Reduce heat to low. Steam, covered, until tamales are cooked-through (husk easily peels away from dough), about 1½ hours. Remove basket from steamer; let tamales sit until firm, about 5 minutes. Unwrap tamale and serve with garnishes, if desired. (Note: to store eaten tamales, wrap individually in foil once cooled and freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat, place frozen, foil-wrapped tamale in 170ºC oven and bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes).