If you like the tender texture and rich, corny flavor of good tamales, but you can’t imagine spending all the time forming, filling and wrapping, a crusty baked tamal goes together quickly. It’s homey, though I think a wedge served with a few spoonfuls of sauce makes an appropriate main-course for a casual dinner that includes a simple soup and a mixed green salad.
Serves 8 as a first course, 4 to 5 as a casual main dish
- 6 ounces (about 3/4) cup rich-tasting lard (or vegetable shortening if you want to), chilled
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) cool, coarse-ground masa for tamales OR 3 cups masaharina for tamales mixed with 1 3/4 cups hot water
- 1 cup cool chicken broth
- Salt, about 1 generous teaspoon
- 2 cups (1 jar) Frontera Chipotle Salsa
- 2 generous cups coarsely shredded, cooked chicken
- Flatleaf parsley sprigs or chopped cilantro for garnish
- The batter. With an electric mixer, beat the lard or other shortening with the baking powder in a large bowl until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in three additions. Slowly beat in the broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the dough floats in a cup of cold water. The consistency should be like soft (not runny) cake batter and it will hold its shape in a spoon. Season with salt (which, yes, will involve tasting a little of the raw batter), usually a generous teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth.
- Finishing the tamal. Turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Combine 3/4 cup of the sauce with the shredded chicken or meat in a small dish. Spread half of the batter into a greased earthenware cazuela or a 10-inch pie plate. Spoon the meat mixture evenly over the batter, then spoon on the remaining batter to cover the filling.
- Bake in the upper third of the oven for 25 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cover the top of the tamal lightly with foil and continue baking until the center springs back when pressed lightly and the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. (If you’d like the top of the tamal a little browner, increase the oven to temperature to 450 degrees and brown, uncovered, in the hot oven for a few minutes.) Let stand a few minutes before cutting into wedges and serving with a spoon or two of the remaining sauce.
NOTES: The batter and the filling can be prepared up to a day in advance and refrigerated separately covered.