Can You Create a Traditional Mexican Tamales with a Mole Sauce?

April 21, 2024

Mexican cuisine is a vibrant, flavorful fusion of Mesoamerican cooking with European elements added after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the 16th Century. Among its many traditional dishes, tamales stand out. Served in corn husks and filled with a variety of ingredients, this dish’s history dates back thousands of years. Today, we will guide you in creating traditional Mexican tamales with a mole sauce.

A Brief Look at Tamales

Tamales are a versatile and traditional Mexican dish made of masa (a dough made from corn) and filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, and chilies. They are wrapped in corn husks and steamed until they become a fluffy, cornmeal cake. This dish dates back to pre-Hispanic times, symbolizing a gift from the gods to the ancient inhabitants of Mexico.

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Pork and chicken are the most common fillings, but there are also sweet and vegetarian versions. Recipes can vary greatly based on region and personal preference. With this guide, you’ll be able to add your own twist to your tamales recipe.

Preparing the Masa for Your Tamales

Masa is the heart and soul of tamales. This dough is created from corn that has been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization. This process softens the corn and makes it more nutritional. You can find masa harina, a dried version of masa, in most supermarkets.

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To make the masa for your tamales, mix about 2 cups of masa harina with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. In a separate bowl, whip 2/3 cup of lard until fluffy, then gradually incorporate the masa harina mixture, along with about 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth. The resulting dough should be spongy and spreadable.

Getting the Corn Husks Ready

Corn husks form the characteristic wrapping of tamales. They’re pliable when wet, and then hold their shape when steamed. Most Mexican markets sell dried corn husks specifically for making tamales.

Soak the corn husks in hot water for about 30 minutes until they become flexible. After this, pat them dry. You will then spread a thin layer of masa on the smooth side of the husk and add your fillings.

Crafting Your Tamales Fillings

The fillings for tamales offer a wide range of possibilities. Traditional recipes often use pork or chicken, but feel free to get creative. For this guide, we will discuss a straightforward chicken filling.

First, simmer chicken thighs in water with an onion, garlic, and bay leaves until the meat can be easily shredded. Then, sauté the shredded chicken with a red sauce made from soaked dried chilies, garlic, and tomatoes. You can adjust the spiciness to your liking.

Mastering the Mole Sauce

Mole sauce is a rich, complex sauce that forms the base of many Mexican dishes. It typically includes ingredients like chilies, seeds, nuts, spices, and even chocolate, resulting in a flavorful blend of sweet, spicy, and savory notes.

To create a traditional mole sauce, first roast and grind the ingredients, then simmer them in a pot with chicken broth until they form a thick, smooth sauce. For a shortcut, many Mexican markets also sell prepared mole paste, which you can dilute with broth. Regardless of the method, adding mole sauce to your tamales will take the dish to new heights.

The Steaming Process

Once your tamales are assembled, it’s time to steam them. You can use a large steamer or a tamalera, a pot specifically designed to steam tamales. Fill the bottom of the pot with water, place the tamales vertically in the steamer basket, cover them with a layer of spare corn husks, and let them steam for about 1 to 2 hours.

Remember to check the water level regularly and add more if needed, to prevent the pot from drying out. The tamales are ready when the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the husk.

Creating traditional Mexican tamales with mole sauce is a labor-intensive process, but the end result is well worth it. Whether for a family gathering or a holiday feast, these tamales will surely impress with their authentic flavor and rich history.

Serving Your Tamales with Mole Sauce

Serving your tamales with mole sauce is the crowning moment of your culinary journey. Traditionally, tamales are served in the corn husk, which can be peeled back like a wrapper before eating. The tamales can be enjoyed as is, or topped with extra mole sauce for an additional burst of flavor.

To serve, carefully remove the tamales from the steamer and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the masa to firm up a bit more. Then, arrange the tamales on a serving platter and generously ladle over your prepared mole sauce.

Mole sauce is a luscious, multi-faceted accompaniment that adds an exciting dimension to the humble tamale. The combination of sweet, savory, and spicy elements in the mole poblano plays beautifully against the subtle sweetness of the masa and the savory fillings.

As a finishing touch, you can garnish the tamales with some crumbled queso fresco, fresh cilantro, or finely chopped onions. For a truly festive Mexican table, pair your tamales with sides like Mexican rice, refried beans, and a vibrant salsa.

Conclusion: The Joy of Making Tamales

Creating traditional Mexican tamales with mole sauce may indeed be a labor-intensive process, but the joy and satisfaction derived from making tamales are immense. The act of making tamales is often a communal one, with families and friends gathering together to partake in this culinary tradition.

The process of making tamales can be as rewarding as the end result. From preparing the masa, crafting the fillings, to mastering the mole sauce and finally steaming the tamales – each step is a beautiful blend of tradition, technique, and taste.

So, whether you’re aiming for a Pati Jinich-style tamale or adding your unique twist, remember that the best ingredient you can add to your tamales recipe is a generous helping of love and patience.

In conclusion, tamales are more than just a dish; they are a celebration of Mexican culture, history, and culinary artistry. Whether you’re an experienced cook or a novice, we hope this guide has inspired you to don the chef’s hat and venture into the delightful world of making tamales. Enjoy the journey, and as they say in Mexico – ¡Buen provecho!