Tamales Tapatios (Chicken Tamales from Jalisco)

Made in large batches and steamed in corn husks, the filling combinations for tamales are endless! Our thanks to Pati Jinich of PBS Pati’s Mexican Table for sharing with us this version, popular in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. Notes Pati, “Anything that comes from Jalisco is known as tapatío. In the Mexican tamal universe, there are many different kinds of chicken tamales: in salsa verde, roja, moles of different kinds, or pibili (with achiote seasoning), just to name some. The ones from Jalisco, a combination of fire-roasted tomatoes and poblano peppers, capers, and olives, are full of sazón (great seasoning and taste).”

Prep
1 hr
Bake
1 hr to 1 hr 15 mins
Total
4 hrs
Yield
24 tamales
Tamals Tapatios (Chicken Tamals from Jalisco)  - select to zoom
Tamals Tapatios (Chicken Tamals from Jalisco)  - select to zoom
Tamals Tapatios (Chicken Tamals from Jalisco) - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To make the filling: Arrange the poblano chiles and tomatoes (if using fresh) on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Place under the broiler and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping a couple of times in between, until charred, soft, and wrinkled.

  2. Remove the poblanos and tomatoes from the oven. Place the poblanos in a plastic bag, close the bag, and set aside to allow the peppers to steam and sweat for at least 10 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

  3. Remove the poblanos from the bag. In a bowl of water or under a gentle stream of running water, peel away the charred skin. Next, cut a slit down the side of each poblano and remove the seeds and stems. Cut the remaining poblano into 1” strips about 1/4” wide. Set aside.

  4. Chop the broiled tomatoes into 1/2" pieces. If using canned tomatoes, simply chop them.

  5. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

  6. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or two longer. Add the chopped tomatoes (including the skins, seeds, and juice), cumin, crushed cloves, and salt. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is dark red and thickened. Add the poblanos, olives, capers, and chicken, stirring to combine; cook for 5 minutes.

  7. To make the tamal dough: Weigh your masa harina; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina, baking powder, and salt.

  8. Place the lard or shortening in a mixer equipped with the flat beater attachment and beat at high speed until very light, about 1 to 2 minutes.

  9. Reduce the speed and add the chicken broth and masa harina mixture alternately, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  10. Once everything has been added, raise the speed to medium and continue beating for about 4 to 8 minutes, until the dough is homogeneous, very fluffy, and aerated. To test if the dough is ready, drop 1/2 teaspoon into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it’s ready. If it sinks, beat longer to aerate further.

  11. In a large bowl, soak the dried corn husks in hot water for at least 10 minutes, or until soft and pliable, then drain.

  12. To assemble the tamales: Working with one corn husk at a time, position it with the tapered end pointing toward you. Portion about 1/4 cup (50g) dough onto the husk; a scone or muffin scoop works well here. Spread the dough into a rectangle about 3” x 5”; the layer should be about 1/4” thick, leaving a border of at least 1/2” on the sides and at least 1” on the bottom.

  13. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling (about 40g) onto the center of the dough.

  14. Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (the dough will start to swaddle the filling). Fold the joined sides of the husk together to one side of the tamal, wrapping them around it in the same direction.

  15. Fold the empty (tapered) section of the husk up from the bottom and over the dough and filling, spreading the dough/filling so it’s evenly distributed within the husk. This will form an enclosed “package” with an open top. Place the tamales, open side up, as upright as you can in a container. Repeat the assembly with the remaining dough and filling.

  16. To steam the tamales: Fill a steamer with water right up to the bottom of the steaming base or basket. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Line the steamer base or basket with a layer of soaked corn husks. 

  17. Place the prepared tamales, open end up, as upright as you can into the prepared steamer. If there’s space left in the steamer tuck in additional corn husks, so the tamales will be snug and not shift around.

  18. Cover the tamales with more soaked corn husks. Steam, covered with a lid, for about an hour.

  19. Turn off the heat and let the tamales rest and settle in the steamer for at least 10 minutes. You can test the tamales for doneness by unwrapping one and checking to see that it releases easily from the husk. If it doesn’t, return them to the heat, checking them at 5-minute intervals. Finished tamales will stay warm for about 2 hours in the steamer.

  20. Storage information: Tamales can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in a steamer: about 20 minutes for refrigerated tamales, or about 45 minutes for frozen tamales.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Masa harina (translation: dough flour) is flour made from corn that’s been soaked in a solution of slaked lime (nixtamalized) to loosen its hull and soften it, which improves its texture and helps release its nutrients. The soaked corn is ground into a paste (masa), dried, and then ground again, this time into a fine flour. Due to the corn’s special treatment, neither cornmeal nor corn flour are good substitutes for masa harina.