Tamales can be labor intensive, but most of the work goes into the filling. These cheese tamales are made with salsa and grated cheese, so the filling and corn masa are quick and easy to prepare. Then it's just a matter of assembling the tamales and steaming them.Tamales are perfect for breakfast or lunch - they can be reheated quickly in the microwave. Fill them with whatever takes your fancy - BBQ, chicken salad, leftover roast chicken - anything at all. You can even make small appetizer-size tamales.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- 4 cups masa harina or masa arepa cornmeal (see link below)
- 1 cup chili con queso (homemade or jarred)
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
- 1 1/2 cups black bean, corn, and roasted pepper salsa (jarred or homemade), or salsa of your choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package frozen banana leaves, or dried corn husks.
- Thaw banana leaves. If using corn husks, soak them in water for an hour to soften them.
- Make the masa: In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the chili con queso and 2 cups chicken stock. Add more chicken stock gradually, mixing well and adding until you have a soft dough. Add the lard and cream cheese and blend them into the masa with your hands until well mixed and smooth. Set aside.
- For the filling, stir together the grated cheeses with the salsa.
- Rinse and dry the banana leaves, and cut them into rectangles about 8 x 10 inches in size (for medium tamales).
- Lay a banana leaf rectangle or corn husk (see more about working with corn husks here) on a flat surface. Place about 1/4 cup of the masa in the middle, and spread into a rectangle about 2 inches by 4 inches. Cover masa with 1-2 tablespoons of the filling. Cover with another thin layer of masa.
- Fold the sides of the banana leaf in over the filling, then fold up the bottom half over the filling, then fold the top half down and roll tamale until well wrapped. Tie tamale with a piece of kitchen string or a strip of banana leaf to secure it. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
- Steam the tamales: Bring 1-2 inches of water to boil in a steamer pot, or in a large pot with a colander or steaming basket set into it. Fill the colander or basket with one layer of tamales (you may have to steam them in batches). The tamales should be above the water - they are cooked by the steam only. Cover the tamales with a dish towel and the pot lid and steam them for 30-40 minutes, being careful to add water to the pot when necessary.
- Remove tamales and serve warm. Tamales can be reheated in the microwave. They can also be frozen - reheat them by steaming them for 15-20 minutes, or by heating them in the oven, wrapped in foil.
Makes about 16 tamales.