Tamales are it. If you’ve eaten one, you know it.
Simple. When ready and steaming hot, unwrap the edible bundle and eat swiftly, no fork, no knife, bite by bite. So good.
Yet as simple as it may sound to write a post about tamales, I could dedicate an entire series of cookbooks to their endless possibilities, and in the end, not have covered them all.
Ancestral, iconic, yet humble, is each single tamal. And the tamal universe, immense, imagine: tamal refers to anything wrapped and cooked in a husk or leave. Usually made with masa, typically corn masa, either mixed with or swaddling ingredients, or both! As you move through Mexico, and increasingly outside, you find them in different shapes (round, square, flat, puffed up, even triangular like Michoacán corundas); with different wraps (corn husks, either fresh or dried, banana leaves and even fresh edible leafy greens like chaya in Chiapas); with an infinity of ingredients, from savory, like chicken, meat, seafood, vegetables, beans, all sort of grains, salsas and cheese…to sweet ingredients, like fresh and dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, cajeta…
The consistency and texture vary greatly, too, from thin and dense like tamales found in Oaxaca; to sticky and gelatinous from Yucatán; to spongy and cakey like the ones from northern and central Mexico, where I grew up.
Continue reading My Favorite Tamal of All Time: Chicken in Green Salsa
My Favorite Tamal of All Time: Chicken in Green Salsa
LIME-RUBBED CHICKEN TACOS WITH CORN GUACAMOLE
Tacos de pollo con guacamole con elote
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
Corn Guacamole Ingredients:
2 large ripe Mexican avocados, halved, pitted and diced
1 jalapeño chile, roasted, chopped, or to taste
2 garlic cloves, roasted with the skin on, peeled and minced
3/4 cup corn kernels, shaved from corn, or cooked from thawed
3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or chopped
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
To assemble Tacos:
10-12 corn tortillas, homemade or store-bought
To make the Chicken:
Mix the lime juice with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper and rosemary in a bowl. Pour on top of the chicken, in a container. Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 1/2 hour up to 12 hours.
Heat a medium-sized sauté or grill pan over medium-high heat. Add corn or safflower oil; once it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken. Sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, place on chopping board to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice into diagonal strips about a 1/2-inch wide.
To make the Guacamole:
Place the jalapeño and garlic cloves in a small baking dish under the broiler, for 6 to 9 minutes, until completely cooked through, soft and skin is charred. Once cool enough to handle, peel garlic and mince along with chiles.
Place diced avocado in a mixing bowl. Add the charred and minced garlic and jalapeños, gently tossing everything together well. Incorporate the corn and tomatoes. Squeeze the lime juice on top and sprinkle the salt. Mix it all together.
To assemble Tacos:
In an already hot skillet or comal set over medium-low heat, heat the tortillas. It will take about 1 minute per side.
Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or cloth napkin. Serve them together with the guacamole and the chicken at the table and assemble your tacos!
CHICKEN À LA TRASH
Pollo a la basura
6 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound poblano chiles (3 to 4), charred, sweated, peeled, seeded, cut into strips
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, about 4 cups, peeled, cubed, and cooked in salted water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, divided, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup prunes, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup raw and hulled pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste, and black pepper.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick, 12-inch skillet or casserole over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, brown the chicken pieces for about 2 minutes on one side. Flip to the other side and stir in the onion; cook until the onions are completely softened and beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring the onions often. Add the garlic; and cook for another minute.
Add the poblano chiles and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and give the entire mixture another good stir. Add the prunes. Pour in the water, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) into the mixture, cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice in between.
Meanwhile, toast the seeds. Place a small, sauté pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, stirring often and taking care not to burn them, until you hear popping sounds and they begin to brown lightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the seeds from the heat and place in a small bowl.
Once the chicken is ready, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, gently mix. Taste for seasoning and serve.
This episode explores three very different, very authentic and very simple twists on Mexican tacos, one of Mexico’s most iconic foods.
Travel with Pati to the state of Puebla to see why it isn’t just the site of the legendary Cinco de Mayo battle — it’s also home to some of Mexico’s most luscious, delectable culinary treats.
By adding a few key Mexican ingredients to what you’d normally find in an all-American pantry and fridge, you get these to-die-for, lip-smacking dishes.
Flautas de pollo
16 corn tortillas
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup Mexican cream
1 cup salsa of your choice
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Serve with guacamole or salsa verde
In a deep skillet, preheat 1 inch deep of oil to 350 degrees, set over medium heat. Or you can also test if the oil is ready for frying the flautas, by dipping a flauta or tortilla to see if the oil actively bubbles around it.
Place a comal or a dry skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat the tortillas on the comal for about 30 seconds per side; this will prevent them from breaking when rolling them into flautas.
Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of shredded chicken on each tortilla and roll them tightly. They should be thin, not chubby rolls. You can insert wooden toothpicks through 2 to 3 flautas at a time, so they will fry evenly and hold their shape.
Once the oil is hot, gently dip the flautas in it. Fry them until they have crisped and turned golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip them over so they will brown evenly, for another minute. Remove the flautas from the oil and put them on a plate or tray lined with paper towels.
Alternatively, you may want to toast the flautas on a comal or bake in the oven lightly brushed with oil at 375, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Arrange them on a serving platter and garnish with lettuce, cheese, Mexican cream and salsa, or let your guests tailor to their taste.
Fun, kid-friendly and (mostly!) finger-food that you’d find at a children’s party in Mexico, adapted for American parties at home. A special guest shows up to make dessert!
DRESSED-UP CHICKEN MILANESA
Milanesa de pollo bien vestida
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely crumbled queso fresco, cotija, ricotta salata, or romano
1 tablespoon dried ground chile piquín or a mix like Tajín, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
To flatten the chicken breasts, in between two layers of parchment or plastic paper, flatten the chicken breasts with a meat pallet or a skillet.
On a plate, beat 2 eggs together with the milk. On another plate, combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese, ground chile and salt.
Dip both sides of each flattened chicken breast in the egg mixture, then gently coat both sides with the breadcrumb mixture so that the entire piece is covered. Set the coated breasts aside on a chopping board or platter.
Heat enough oil, in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat, for it to be ¼ inch deep. After about 3 to 4 minutes, when the oil is hot but not smoking, place as many chicken breasts as will fit in a single layer without crowding the pan. If the edges of the chicken breasts aren’t bubbling in the oil, raise the heat closer to medium-high.
Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until golden brown. Gently flip and repeat on the other side. When the second side has crisped, remove it from the pan and set it on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining milanesas.
Simple, easy, home-style cuisine that you’d find in just about any Mexican home, recreated for the American kitchen. This meal was my favorite “everyday” meal growing up in Mexico, and one I regularly make for my own family today. I am proud to share the steps so that you can enjoy it too.