It is a tradition in many Hispanic American families to make tamales during the holidays. This year my stepdad and I attempted to recreate the scents and flavors of his youth by taking over the kitchen with a gluten free tamale project. I had a recipe and limited experience from a cooking class I took in NY. He had years of first hand experience helping his Mom. We were the perfect team.
Mexican food in general tends to be naturally gluten free. For tamales it was necessary to make sure that there was no hidden gluten in the ingredients rather than search out specific gluten free alternatives. After coming up empty at Whole Foods, we ventured to a Carniceria and found all of the tamale fixings. The instant corn masa from Mimaseca actually had “gluten free” right on the side of the bag.
Tamales can be made with various fillings. The recipe below is for chicken, though we made this batch with shredded pork. The mole sauce can be purchased ready to use or in a paste form that you reconstitute with the stock used from cooking the chicken, pork or beef. (if you want to make vegetarian tamales, you could use vegetable broth and substitute various veggies or cheese for the filling) Some ready to use mole sauces have bread crumbs so be vigilant in your ingredient perusal.
We made about 60 large tamales – this recipe is for about 30 small tamales or 20 medium to large tamales. It's a lot of work and it can be messy - but it's fun and nothing compares to the aroma of the cooking mole sauce and fresh steaming masa. We served them as part of all of our Holiday celebrations - dinner, breakfast - there is never a wrong time to eat tamales. Plus you can freeze tamales and enjoy the fruits of your effort for the rest of the year.
Gluten Free Tamales (recipe adapted from Essentials of Mexican Cuisine cooking class at the Institute for Culinary Education in NY)
In a large bowl filled with very hot water soak 30 corn husks for 20 minutes.
6 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
2 quarts gluten free chicken stock
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 poblano pepper, diced
4 cups Mole Sauce
30 black pitted olives - optional
4 cups gluten free instant corn masa
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2-3 cups gluten free chicken stock
Poach chicken breast in chicken stock to an internal temperature of 165F. Set aside and allow to cool. Shred the cooled chicken. Heat a medium sauté pan, add the garlic and poblano pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the mole and allow to simmer for about 7-10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and warm through. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the masa, salt and baking soda. In batches, add the vegetable oil and chicken stock. The dough should have the consistency of cookie dough. Set dough aside.
To Fill Tamal
Remove corn husks from water one at a time, as you work with them. Spread masa dough on the “inside” of the husk. It should cove the inside of the usk completely and be about ¼ inch thick. Place the filling in the middle of the dough, gently pushing down into the dough. (Optional - Place one olive in the center.) Fold the corn husk closed, with the top of the husk overlapping the first fold. Repeat process for remaining tamales.
Place tamales, straightside up in a pan on top of a steaming insert. The pan should have water to a level just below the insert. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Steam, covered for one hour or until the husk comes away easily from the masa. If it does not peel away easily, allow to cook fro another 5-10 minutes. (remember to check water and refill as necessary) After they are done cooking, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Happy New Year one and all! I can sense big things for 2007.