While there really isn't anything difficult in the preparation, it would be pretty tedious to fill all those corn husks all by yourself! Before I asked them to come help me, I first got the dough together that we would be working with.
If one was going to be fairly traditional with making masa dough for tamales, there would probably be a good amount of lard used. However, the recipe we made used a couple unique approaches to add in extra flavor, without the need for so much fat. The first layer came from steeping a couple smoky ancho chiles in hot chicken broth until they had softened and were pliable. Those two went into a blender, along with a couple handfuls from those summer corn kernels we stashed away in the freezer this year, to be pureed smooth.
That concoction was then added to a mixture of masa harina, salt and baking powder with the required lard being cut in with a pastry blender. We only needed to use four chilled tablespoons worth though - I think that's pretty negligible considering we'd be making 24 individual tamales! You can prepare this dough up to 2 or so days ahead of time - just wrap well and keep it in the refrigerator until needed. While we weren't going the veggie route with these tamales, if you wanted to change out the filling and needed the dough to be vegetarian-friendly as well, swap out the chicken broth for vegetable and use either canola oil or vegetable shortening for the lard.
That moist dough I made will then be used to encase the beefy filling - a simple combination of softened onions, pungent cloves of garlic, oregano and browned beef that we sauced up with a can of chipotle sauce for a mild, but decidedly smoky heat. The assembly process should be fairly straight forward in our recipe, but if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. The two suggestions I'd offer is to have an? (few!) extra hands available and soak the corn husks for as long as you can - I like to leave them be for at least an hour or two so they stay pretty flexible.
Cooking the tamales is a snap - you just need to steam them until the masa has firmed up enough that it will easily peel away from the corn wrapper... this usually takes around an hour. Be sure to keep a wandering eye on the level of water in the bottom of the saucepan - you do not want it to go dry! Waiting that hour was probably the hardest part as the house filled with the sweet scent of corn tortillas as they steamed away.
Perfect to make ahead of time and freeze, the full recipe will give you about 12 servings of two tamales each. If you have leftovers, just wrap them in a damp paper towel before reheating so they won't dry out. Can you still make a tasty tamale that is a bit lighter in the fat department without them being a disaster? You certainly can and we all agreed that these hit the spot! Adding those additional notes to the masa dough made a big difference - so, while they may not be AS rich as a traditional tamale, that can sometimes be a good thing! I didn't think about it until afterwards, but it would have been nice if one of us kept our fingers clean to take pictures of our tamale assembly line!
Chipotle Beef Tamales