RECIPE: Chicken Tamales

Because Christmastime in Texas means tamale-time

HOUSTON – During the holidays, Mexican restaurants in Texas get super busy trying fill orders for Christmas tamales. But for many Hispanic families, hosting a Tamalada is a tradition that shows that any family can do at home.

“Families get together, it’s a lot of work. That’s why you get everyone to help if they are going to eat,” said Chef Cariño Cortez, from La Familia Cortez Restaurants, who stopped by our studio to share their family recipe.

And even though making tamales may seem overwhelming, she shared some important tips to make it easier for anyone who wants to cook them at home, starting with the smooth dough, called “masa.”

"When you are making this dough or masa at home, drop it in a little bit of ice water and if it floats, that means it is nice and fluffy, and if it falls, don’t keep making them. Go fix your dough,” said Cortez, who is the third generation of the Cortez family making authentic Mexican food in San Antonio.

“Keep the tamales in low heat, you don’t want to be opening the lid, you want a consistent temperature,” Cortez offered advice for first-timers who might not know that.

For more information see the full video above.

Tamal Dough
Makes approx. 2 dozen

3 cups of dried corn dough
1 ½ cups of chicken broth or water
8 ounces lard
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder

In a bowl, combine the dried corn dough or “masa” with broth or water until crumbly. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, add the rest of the ingredients. Separate from the crumbly dried corn dough mixture. Whip the ingredients on medium speed until the lard is fluffy, approximately for 1 minute.
Begin to add the crumbling masa mixture to the lard, a third at a time until it is all incorporated. Now your masa is ready to spread.
Note: If your masa is not spreading easily onto the corn husk, just add more broth or water.


Red Chile Chicken Recipe

½ lb. chicken, cubed
3 guajillo chiles, boiled, deseeded and blended
3 ancho chiles boiled, deseeded and blended
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup diced white onion
1 clove garlic, diced
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

Cook all ingredients in a crockpot for 4-5 hours until the meat is completely tender, taste and add salt to adjust seasoning.
1.    Tamales that are raw will be cooked in a pot on the stove with a steamer basket for approximately 1 ½ hours, sometimes a little less or longer, depending on how big the tamales are. When they are fully cooked, the masa will come away from the corn husk cleanly.
2.    To reheat tamales, wrap in a wet towel and place in the microwave for approximately 1-2 minutes, or place in the husk on a cast iron skillet over low heat. The outside of the husk will be charred and the tamales get a nice corn flavor.


Recipe provided by Chef Cariño Cortez, from La Familia Cortez Restaurants.