This Mexican skillet corn tamal (also known as tamal de elote) is a faster, but just as delicious, alternative to tamales. Corn is the leading flavor, with puréed and chopped corn kernels bound together in a batter made with King Arthur Organic Masa Harina. Enjoy it warm as a hearty, spoonable accompaniment to chili or a roast, and add the optional pickled jalapenos if you seek heat. This version is lightly adapted from a similar recipe created by Pati Jinich of PBS’ Pati’s Mexican Table.
To prepare the garlic: Cut off the root end of an entire head of garlic. The cloves will naturally separate to some extent. Remove the smallest clove from the head, peel, and set aside. In a small microwave-safe bowl, place the remaining garlic cloves cut-side down, then add the olive oil and water. It is OK if some of the cloves fall over into the liquid.
Microwave the garlic for 3 to 5 minutes at 50% power, covered, until the cloves are soft and cooked through. Set garlic aside until cool enough to handle. Reserve the cooking liquid. (See “tips,” below, for details on how to prepare the garlic on the stovetop.)
Carefully remove the cooked garlic cloves from their skins by squeezing on the stem end, releasing the garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Use the tines of a fork to squeeze out any cloves that remain in their skins.
Add the peeled, uncooked garlic clove and the reserved garlic cooking liquid to the bowl of the food processor.
To prepare the tamal mixture: To the food processor, add about half of the corn kernels (generous 3 cups or 480g) and half of the chicken broth (scant 3 tablespoons or 38g), and purée until no whole kernels remain, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
Add the remaining corn kernels, remaining chicken broth, and jalapeño slices to the bowl of a food processor (no need to wipe out). Pulse the mixture 4 to 5 times, or until very coarse, with some whole corn kernels remaining. Transfer this mixture to the medium bowl with the puréed corn mixture. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the masa harina, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and red pepper flakes.
To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the brown sugar. Using your whisk from the previous step, slowly whisk in about half of the duck fat, clarified butter, or butter (6 tablespoons, 70g to 85g, depending on the fat used) until well mixed. It is OK if a few visible lumps of brown sugar remain. Attach your mixer’s flat beater attachment. Add the masa harina mixture and beat until the consistency resembles wet sand, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to ensure any dry bits are incorporated. Add half the corn mixture and increase the mixer's speed to medium. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer, add the remaining corn mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely mixed, with no lumps of masa harina or brown sugar remaining.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F with the rack in the middle position.
Set a 10" cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stovetop. Once hot, add the remaining duck fat, clarified butter, or butter. (Be careful if using butter, as it may spatter.) Once the fat is hot but not smoking, add the corn mixture, and spread it into a smooth layer. Without stirring, allow the mixture to cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. The edges will begin to brown as the fat bubbles up between the mixture and the edges of the skillet.
Cover the skillet with aluminum foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the top turns light golden brown color in a few places. Remove from the oven and serve warm.
Storage information: Store leftover skillet corn tamal in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
Tips from our Bakers
To make roasted garlic on the stovetop: Prepare the garlic head as directed above, placing it in a small saucepan with the olive oil and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer, until soft, about 15 minutes. Finish the garlic as directed above.