Tamales Hondureños

Tamales! Oh, how I love tamales.

Growing up, we only made tamales once a year for Christmas, because we made such huge batches (150-200 at a time, sometimes!). They would last for a couple months, being able to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Or even just a snack.

As I have grown older and have learned the ways of making tamales, I try to make them more often than once a year, but honestly it’s just a lot of work, even if I’m not making almost 200 at a time.

But I did make some this past week and I am so glad I did! I have been craving them for a while, and last time I made them, I wasn’t able to eat as many as I wanted to. But now, I have about 20 to myself and my husband is out of town for two weeks, so they are all mine (I might save him a couple).

A lot of the ingredients throughout this recipe were not precisely measured, so as I go along, some of the things I say may not make a lot of sense. I’m going mostly off of memory and what I know it’s supposed to look like, so sorry ahead of time if nothing is precise or exact. I tried to include pictures to help visualize what I’m trying to describe.

Now, as the title says, these are tamales Hondureños. They are made with banana leaves, instead of corn husks, and filled with two different kinds of masa, as well as a whole slew of ingredients. As I go through the directions, I’ll explain what all is needed. They may seem a little weird, but they are so flavorful and wonderful and can be enjoyed any time of day!

Now let’s begin:

The first part of preparing the tamales is cooking what you need to fill them. This consists of the chicken, rice, potatoes, and masa. For the rice and potatoes, you only cook them halfway because you will be steaming the tamales, so they will cook more inside. Mushy rice is gross.

As for the chicken, we usually just boil it. I know that’s typically considered a no-no in the cooking world, but honestly it’s an easy way to cook the chicken. Just be sure to season the water well and let it cook passively.

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Before you prepare the masa, you should sweat the onions and garlic. I used about a garlic and a half (what do you call an entire garlic-thing? I have no idea.) and a whole, medium-sized yellow onion.

It wouldn’t be a Hispanic household if you didn’t have random containers holding something other than what they are labeled for, am I right?

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Anyway, after you sweat the onions and garlic until they are beautifully fragrant, set them aside to add to the masa later.

Onto the masa:

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As I said earlier, we make two different colored masas: red and white. You are supposed to make more of the white than the red, but somehow it always ends up that there is more red leftover than white.

To begin you dilute the maseca in water. 2 pounds of maseca for the white masa and 1.5 pounds of maseca for the red masa.

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While you dilute the maseca, you should add in the onions and garlic (2/3 of the pan to the white masa, 1/3 of the pan to the red masa), as well as the chicken flavor cubes (10 for the white masa, 12 for the red masa).

After you have added that in, you need to make the red masa red. This is where you add Achiote. When you add it in at first, it doesn’t change the color all at once. It’s only when you start heating it up it will become a more red/dark orange color. I usually just eyeball the amount I pour in, but if I had to guess, I would say 3-4 tablespoons.

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After you have added in these ingredients, turn on the heat. As the masa heats up, you are going to add in boiling water, oil, and manteca (lard).

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Now, instead of lard you could use vegetable oil, but that’s all up to you. As you heat the masa, you need to constantly stir it, while adding water, manteca, and cooking oil. While I wish I could give you exact measurements, it’s really all eye-balled. My grandparents helped me out when making this batch, so they were helping me from memory, just putting in water and oil/lard as they saw fit. Also, season with salt and pepper as you go.

The goal is to have an oily masa that isn’t too runny. You want it to have the right kind of consistency, which I am obviously terrible at explaining.

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White masa
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Red masa

If you can see in the picture, the masa is glimmering, but thicker than gravy. Once it cools, it turns into this thick, almost mashed potato like substance.

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Once the chicken is cooked, cut it up into smallish chunks. This was about 6 pounds of bone-in, chicken thighs.

While the masa cools, prepare the other ingredients for the filling.

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Pictured above left to right:
Top row: Olives, rice, red masa, white masa, garbanzo beans, jalapeños
Middle row: Raisins, potatoes, chicken, capers, peas
Bottom row: Banana leaves on aluminum foil

Before I get to the filling, I just want to point out again that we do use banana leaves instead of corn husks. We usually buy them at the local Spanish supermarket. They come in these giant bags and you have to cut them up yourself.

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My husband did a wonderful job cutting them up into little pieces to fill.

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After they are cut up, you just rinse them off and line them along the aluminum foil. Now, with the scraps that are left over, we use them to line the bottom of the tamale pots, to add more flavor during the steaming.

Now onto the filling:

First you begin with the masas: you use about half and half of the red and white, but use a little more of the white than red.

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Next add the chicken,

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Then add rice and potatoes,

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Next add raisins and olives,

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Then capers, garbanzos, and peas,

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Lastly, add the jalapeños.

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After all of it is added, you then wrap the tamale up like a burrito!

Then you wrap and wrap and wrap for a couple hours. Even enjoy a coke as you wrap them up.

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Once you have enough tamales to fill up the pot, fill up the pot to the banana leaf layer with boiling water, put the pot on the stove and steam for 45 minutes.

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After 45 minutes, just pull them out to cool.

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I’m too impatient to wait for them to cool, so I opened one immediately and ate it! It was so yummy and tastes like nostalgia. Now I have plenty in my freezer for me to enjoy for the next couple weeks. And just a little something extra, I love to add Tabasco for some more spice.

I hope you guys enjoyed my tamale journey. It took me about 5 or so hours to do everything, but it was fun process and takes me down memory lane.

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