Holiday Tamales

In many Fort Worth homes, serving tamales on Christmas Eve is an honored family tradition. Making the tamales can also create great memories.

Step 1: Make the masa and filling. These can be prepared up to three days ahead and refrigerated.
Step 2: On tamale-making day, soak the cornhusks. Call the family into the kitchen and construct the tamales.
Step 3: Place tamales in pot and steam. After steaming, cool and refrigerate or freeze.

Yield: 6 dozen tamales
1 package (4 pounds) Instant Corn Masa
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cups salt or to taste
1 pound lard, Crisco or butter, melted
17 cups warm water, or as needed
2, 5-ounce bags corn husks, soaking in warm water to soften.
1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Begin adding water, adding more or less as needed to make a thick paste. Add the first 10 cups of water and then add by 1 or 2 cups at a time. Dough should be very pliable and sticky. If dough has been refrigerated, you might need to stir in more warm water.
2. Remove husks from water and stand in a bowl to drain. With a spoon, an offset metal spatula, or your fingers, spread about 3 tablespoons masa over the bottom 2/3 (larger end) of cornhusks, leaving about 3/4 inch clean at smaller end of husk. Place about 2 tablespoons filling in a small row, down middle of masa. Wrap cornhusk sides closed and fold down smaller end; stack on a large platter to hold.
3. Place extra husks in bottom of a large stock pot or several pots. On top of corn husks, place a towel or dinner plate. Top with more husks. Add about 1 1/2 inches of water and place over high heat. When water begins to boil, add tamales, stacking them to the top of the pot. Cover with a plastic bag and then a lid or foil. Turn heat to low and steam one hour.
4. Remove one tamale to test for doneness. They will be done when the husk peels away from the masa without sticking. If not done, steam another 5 to 10 minutes.

Carne Filling
Yield: filling for 6 dozen tamales
6 - 8 pasillo chiles
4 - 6 ancho chiles
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
water as needed
5 pounds beef chuck roast or pork roast, cooked and shredded (reserve cooking stock)
1. Make chile sauce. Remove stem end and seeds from pasillo and ancho chiles. Place chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast slightly, until chiles become fragrant and begin to blister. Add enough water to skillet to cover chiles and cook a few minutes, until very soft. Remove skillet from heat. Place chiles in a blender, reserving cooking liquid. To the blender, add garlic, oregano, cloves, pepper, and 1 tablespoon salt. Blend mixture, adding reserved cooking liquid plus additional water as needed, until mixture is the consistency of tomato sauce.
2. Place shredded meat in a large Dutch oven and stir in chile sauce.

Turkey Chile Tamale Filling
Yield: filling for about 2 dozen tamales
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
1 tablespoon chili powder 
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 to 4 cups shredded cooked turkey
3 to 4 charred, peeled, seeded poblano or Anaheim chile peppers, chopped
1/2 bunch scallions sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
6 ounces crumbled goat cheese or
Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño, chili powder, salt, cumin and cayenne; cook and stir another minute.
2. Add chicken, chile peppers, scallions and cilantro, and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Remove pan from heat and let sit until cool enough to handle. When cool, fold in goat cheese.
Charring Chiles:
Roasting chiles makes it easy to remove their peelings. Hold the chiles over the flame of your gas range or place them on a baking sheet under the broiler. You can also place them on the grill over hot coals. Cook them, turning often, until the skin is blistered and lightly charred. Then steam the charred chiles; place the hot, charred chiles on a plate covered with a bowl. After a few minutes, gently peel off the skins.
They can now be sliced and served. To remove some of the heat, remove the seeds and inside membranes.