Friday, January 1, 2010

Tamales Part 1: Pollo con salsa verde

Whew! I returned home a week ago only to find out that my internet connection is not working again. So, I was unable to update and wish you all a Happy New Year. I also haven't been able to post the chocolate peanut butter tart I made, and I want to show you all the kitchen-related loot I got for Xmas thanks to my generous, loving mom.

However, since the year has already started and this will be my first post of the year, I wanted to start it off with these tamales I made because they were a major (yet delightful) project for me. I had never made tamales by myself before. The first and only time I made them, I assisted my ex-girlfriend's mother, and all I really did was help her fill the corn husks. I remember putting too much masa in them (what a great help I was! haha).

Three days ago I made tamales for the second time, and I made them all by myself with the assistance of various recipes, blogs, and Youtube videos. Since the making of tamales is a tedious, yet doable project, I have decided to break up the process into three parts:

1) the filling,
2) the masa and corn husks,
3) and the assembly of tamales.

So, today I will be posting about one of the fillings I made - salsa verde with shredded chicken. I also made a filling of cheese and jalapeños, but I will talk about that later.

Before we start, just a little factoid: The singular form of "tamales" is "tamal" without the lone "e" hanging on at the end.

Let's move on to what I did for these yummy tamales...

Pollo con salsa verde (printable version)

First, I placed the chicken breasts (you could also use whole chicken cut up into pieces) in a big pot, along with chopped carrots, onions, black peppercorns, and 2 cloves of garlic. I then covered the chicken with water and boiled it for about 50 minutes. (The photos for the raw chicken just looked too gross to post, so you'll just have to picture it in your minds.) Instead, you can look at the pot I bought in Mexico a long time ago. I love it, especially when I make "trying-to-be-as-authentic-as-possible", Mexican dishes.

After it was done, I reserved the resulting broth by pouring it through a strainer into a 1 liter measuring cup. Big mistake! I forgot that I had added more than 4 cups of liquid to the chicken, so some of the broth overflowed to the floor. I then transferred everything quickly to a big bowl.

While the chicken was boiling, I worked on the salsa verde:

Whenever I made a traditional, Mexican dish, I go to a popular, Latin American grocery store in the South, called "Fiesta". Well, almost everyone there must have had the same plans as I because all the good, pretty tomatillos (green tomatoes) were gone. So, these weren't the best looking tomatillos, but they resulted in some delicious salsa verde. That's all that matters in my opinion.

Anyway, I peeled the cáscara (papery skin) off of the tomatillos by starting from the back. (I love this photo for some reason...)

Then I placed the peeled tomatillos in the bowl. See the dirt? Make sure you wash them after you've peeled them.

Ahhh! Bathed and ready to be boiled!

Next, boil the tomatillos, 2-3 jalapeños, 1-2 cloves of garlic (not pictured), and 1/2 of an onion (not pictured) for about 10 minutes.

(I boiled mine a little too long...) Then drain them... You can reserve the liquid for the blender, if the salsa is too thick. I didn't need it, though.

Place the boiled mixture in a blender, and add a few sprigs of cilantro and salt (Look! My first bokeh...of an olive oil bottle!).

Blend the mixture for a few seconds, and now you have salsa verde! Make sure you taste the salsa to make sure you've added enough salt. I always forget to do that.

Back to the chicken:

Once the chicken is ready, shred it, and then pour in one capsful of vegetable oil in a skillet. Add the chicken and cook the chicken for about 2 minutes. Then add most of the salsa verde, reserving the rest for the tamales once they're done. If you forget and use up all the salsa, then you'll have to make more later. Cook the salsa and shredded chicken mixture for about 2-3 minutes, then add about 1/4-1/2 cup of chicken broth. Just don't make it too "liquidy". Then, you're done! NOTE: Reserve the rest of the chicken broth for the masa. You will need about 2-3 cups of it.

Now, you can just refrigerate this mixture and make the rest of the tamales the next day, or you can keep chugging along the same day. I'm going to assume you want to take a break at this point. So, I'll be back tomorrow with the rest...

P.S. Here is the rajas y queso (jalapeños and cheese) filling cut and ready to be placed in the tamales! I used Monterey Jack.


  1. Happy New Year to you and your family. May this year bring lots of happiness.

    your chicken dish sounds really mouth watering.

  2. Happy New Year, Memoria! I have actually made tamales! They worked first time. But you are right, it is a lot of work. Nice to do with a friend. I see a tamale paper down here rather than using the husks. Any suggestions on that? Or is the husk still the best.

  3. Hi, Memoria

    I appreciate the diligence and hard work you have put into showing us that it is indeed possible to make your own tamales! It looks as if making tamales is a tedious process which requires lots of patience, but if you say it is doable, then I believe you.

    One of my many New Year's resolutions is to spend more time doing more of my own cooking and less time (and money) eating out. In that regard, it is great to know that I can always come to your blog and get step-by-step instructions on how to make the simplest to the most complicated dishes!

    Thank you for all you do! The photos look greaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!


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