Friday, November 29, 2013



Chile Verde Pollo Tamales
Green Chile Chicken Tamales

My dear friend, Maria Paz, my partner in culinary crime, came over on Tuesday and showed me how to make Green Chile Chicken Tamales, or, Chile Verde Pollo Tamales. We had so much fun, had such incredible conversation, laughs - mostly at my klutzy expense, and tasted amazing tamales.  We both agree that the only way it might have been more fun is if we had wine to go along with the tasks.  Alas, I had to drive out of town to pick up my son for Thanksgiving after his classes at CSU Sacramento let out, so I refrained from any drinking.  I know, responsible.  It's what I do.  

Maria brought the chicken already marinating in its luxurious verde sauce which she had made completely with fresh ingredients; nothing canned in this recipe! She also brought a huge pot that was almost as big as she is, and don't let me forget to talk about the fiasco with the steamer grate!  I purchased the corn husks and the masa.  What an experience, masa!  I felt like a gardener (which is one of my passions, as well) getting my hands full of masa. Why I did that will be explained a little later.  Let's just say, it feels good, like dirt to a gardener. 

Enough foreshadowing, let's get to the recipe!

To make the Verde Sauce:
2 pounds of tomatillos, peeled and washed
2 medium white onions, quartered
2 jalapenos
16 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or your favorite high heat oil)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock (we used homemade chicken stock)

2 bunches cilantro  (about a cup)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

On a cutting board or chopping block, quarter and peel the onions and smash and peel the garlic cloves.  Toss the vegetables, minus the cilantro, in the oil and spread out over a large roasting pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to season.  Roast the vegetables in the 400 degree oven about 18 - 20 minutes.  You will know when the vegetables have finished roasting;  your nose will tell you, as the aroma will envelope your whole space.  

Remove the roasting pan and allow the roasted vegetables to cool about six to eight minutes before transferring over to a large blender or food processor. Now add the cilantro to the food processor.  Pulse until the mixture becomes a loose pesto consistency.  Not too loose, not too thick.  Taste and season again, if needed.  If it is great, set the sauce aside for a moment. 




While the vegetables are roasting, shred the meat from two roasted chickens.  Place the meat in a large pot.  Pour the verde sauce over the chicken meat and stir in the pot over medium heat.  Allow the mixture to simmer on low about twenty minutes.  Remove and allow the mixture to cool overnight.

Now we must attend to the dried corn husks.  The husks must be soaked in water for about thirty minutes before they can be pliable enough to use.  Keeping them submerged took some high tech work, but we made it happen.  
In the large pot, add the husks and try to separate them a bit.  Pour water over the husks until the water covers them, much like you would cover potatoes in order to boil them.  





 Told you it was high tech!!!

In the large pot, you see two red cans. They are olives.  Maria says olives are oftentimes traditional in tamales.  She halves them.  That was fun, because you would think I had been drinking as they kept rolling off of my cutting board and my dog kept trying to devour them.  Fiasco.  Plain and simple. And not my first one!

One of the most important challenges we faced - other than my bout with klutziness - was how to set up our assembly line in limited space.  My birthday present last year from my good friend and former colleague, Mr. V, a culinary cart, provided much-needed extra counter space.  In front of us, we had a large bowl of the prepared masa.  We had a large metal pot with the Chile Verde Pollo filling, spoons (my undoing), a large roasting pan, a bowl of Maria's homemade chicken stock, a bowl with the olives (what was left of them) and a plate for me. 

Now, Maria is an expert at making tamales.  She looks like a master pizza dough maker, only making tamales.  She flattens the palm of her hand, she places a husk, smooth, soft side up, then uses a spoon to slather masa over the front third of the tamale like she is spreading peanut butter.  She then places the filling in the center, folds one side over to the other, then over the original fold, and then folds the narrow end of the husk forward.  She efficiently and quickly makes a beautiful tamale packet.  I, on the other hand, in my first several attempts, flung masa all over the place, much to my little dog's delight, until I decided to use my fingers.  The spoon was just not it for me.  Not my friend!  While I was not quick and efficient, using my fingers - which Maria said was more traditional than spoons - was much better for me. I kept that small bowl of chicken stock beside me so I could dip my fingers in it in order for the masa to stay on the husk and not on my hands.  That strategy worked pretty well for me. 




Using my fingers was much better than the spoon for me. Doesn't that Verde Pollo filling look enticing?  Delicioso!


Another view of my handy work. 

After spreading masa over a third or so of the wide, flat part of the corn husk, we placed a spoonful of the verde chicken filling in the center of the masa. We folded the lower side over the filling, rolled it inward, then folded the top (or, from where I was sitting, the right side) over the left, then folded the narrow end up over the top.  I know this is repeated information, but I wanted to reiterate that below the photos. 

Now I have to tell you about another fiasco we had happen.  After we removed the corn husks and placed them in a separate bowl, it was time to put the steamer grate into that large pot you saw above. Maria got it in there, but it stuck below the lip it rests on.  I was able to partially lift it but not pop it out from where it was stuck.  Maria, always clever and smart, used one of my chopsticks to leverage it out of its wedged-in place. We had a good laugh about that, too.

With the screen firmly in the correct place in the large pot, the water boiling nicely, Maria placed the tamale packets, folded-up side down, onto the grate. 

 
 After that first batch finished steaming, about thirty minutes later, we plated a couple of tamales to try.  One a piece became four for me.  I was happily stuffed for the rest of the day.  It was so tasty, tangy, flavorful and warm.  It was perfect comfort food for a busy, but fun day with my friend. 

Sadly, we ran out of corn husks, so we could not complete a third batch of tamales.  Yes, a second, just like the one above, was repeated.  Such amazing aromas during steaming and delicious flavors upon eating!  Miss Maria wanted to offer a nearly vegan option, in which the filling included slivered and sauteed white onions and jalapeno chiles, and, to be the crowning glory over the onion-chile mixture, a sliver of mozzarella cheese (ergo the almost vegan version).  Here is a photo log of Maria working on that filling.  

 Maria cutting vegetables on my culinary cart!  I love it!





 Above: the onions and jalapenos before and after saute'.  



A section of one of the tamales.  The olive is incredible with the green chile and chicken mixture.  



Invite your friends and throw a tamale making party!  There are literally dozens of different fillings, from spices to fruits, to different meats and a plethora of different amazing flavors.  One of my favorites has the pineapple.  DeLish!  I have to tell you, however, I truly LOVE the Chile Verde Pollo tamales.  Love that tangy, rich flavor!  What a fun party idea, don't you agree?  Try this recipe. You cannot go wrong, and you will fall in love with it. I know I did.  Enjoy and Thank You for your time!