November 25, 2012

Reprinted with permission from Tacos, Tortas and Tamales by Roberto Santibañez (Wiley Hardcover, October 2012)

Serves 8 to 10 as a main dish

8 c. low-sodium chicken stock

1 c. quick-cooking hominy grits

1 c. tamale flour (masa harina para tamales)

1/2 c. golden-colored lard or vegetable oil

1 t. kosher salt

3 banana leaf pieces (each about 16x12 inches), thawed if frozen (optional)

Chicken with poblanos and tomatoes filling (recipe below)

The Dough:

Combine stock, grits, tamale flour in medium pot and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Lower heat to maintain a simmer; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in lard and continue cooking until mixture is the texture of thick porridge, about 10 minutes more. Stir in salt.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat large skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. One by one, toast banana leaf pieces in skillet for about 20 seconds per side. This brings out aroma and makes them more pliable.

Lay 2 banana leaf pieces perpendicularly in an 8- to 9-quart ovenproof Dutch oven or deep baking dish, pressing lightly with your hands so leaves line the bottom and sides to create a little nest.

Spread layer of masa (about 2 cups, depending on size of pot) into the pot then spread layer of chicken filling over the masa. Repeat, using all masa and filling and ending with final layer of masa. (If filling isn't highly seasoned, season each layer generously with salt.)

Fold visible banana leaves over the tamal as best you can, then cover with remaining piece of banana leaf, tucking it between dough and sides of pot to make a neat bundle.

Cover pot with tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and cook in oven until the tamal is steaming hot all the way through, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then serve.

The Chicken Filling:

Makes enough for 3 layers of filling

1 lb. fresh poblano chiles (about 3 medium)

2 lbs. tomatoes (about 5 medium), cored

1/2 med. Red onion, cut into 1/2-in. thick round slices

4 c. shredded chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)

24 med. epazote leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

3/4 t. kosher salt

Roast, peel, seed and slice poblanos. Preheat oven to 500F. Put tomatoes, cored sides up, on large, foil-lined baking sheet; roast in oven until blackened and cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat medium skillet over medium-low heat. Lay onion slices in pan and cook turning them occasionally, until softened and charred on both sides, 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer to cutting board.

Coarsely chop onion. Peel and cut tomatoes into pieces. Reserve tomato juice that's released for another purpose.

Between each layer of masa, add layer of poblanos, tomatoes, onion, chicken, epazote leaves (if using), and generous sprinkle of salt.

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November 25, 2012

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