Sam Kaplan

Making tamales doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little planning, you can have this traditional treat at hand. Start the night before, setting the husks to soak overnight. The next day, mix the masa marina with some chicken stock, lard, salt and baking powder. Lay the mixture onto the husks along with shredded meat, wrap and steam them in a rack. It’s a perfect project for the intermediate home cook, hoping to broaden a skill set. If it feels like a lot, invite a friend over, crack open a couple of beers and make it a party.

Makes: 24 tamales
Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus soaking time for the husks


  • 24 dried corn husks

  • 3 1 ⁄ 2 cups masa harina

  • 2 1 ⁄ 4 cups chicken stock, approximately

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 1 ⁄ 2 cups Shredded Red Chile Meat (click here for the recipe)

  • 1 cup lard, cut into cubes


1. Soak the husks in warm water for at least 3 hours or overnight. Drain, separate the husks, then continue soaking.

2. Put the masa harina in a bowl and add stock a little at a time until the mixture is crumbly.

3. With a mixer, beat the lard, salt, and baking powder until light. Add the masa mixture, and continue to beat until the dough is fluffy, adding more stock if needed. The mixture is ready when a small ball of it floats in water.

4. Drain a husk, and pat dry. Spread 2 tablespoons of the masa dough in the center of the husk, smooth side up, then wet your fingers and pat into a 4 by 3-inch rectangle along the center of the husk, leaving at least 2 inches on each side. Put 1 tablespoon of the shredded meat lengthwise down the center of the dough rectangle. Wrap by folding the rectangle in half and bringing the right side of the dough over the filling. Continue rolling tightly to the end of the husk, then secure one open end with string or strips of corn husk. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

5. Prepare a large steamer by setting a steamer rack about 2 inches above gently boiling water. Stack the tamales, seam down, on the rack. Cover and steam until the filling is firm and comes away easily from the husk, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix (Photo: Sam Kaplan)