Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tiffany's Chicken Tamales with Queso Fresco & Tomatillo Sauce

My wife and I are fans of Top Chef (Bravo TV Network).  On episode 8 - - Tiffany Derry won the elimination challenge with her Chicken Tamales with Queso Fresco & Tomatillo Sauce.  After a bit of googling, I also found a video by last season's winner, Michael Voltaggio showing how to make the tamales.  The recipe is a bit terse; for instance, it doesn't even include instructions for cooking the tamales.  The video is a bit better.  This is how I did it, which is, hopefully, a bit more complete.  They are a bit of work - but well worth the effort.

Tomatillo Sauce
  • 12 tomatillos, cut in quarters
  • 1 habanero, seeds and membrane removed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 large avocado
  1. Place half the tomatillos and all of the rest of the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth
  2. Gradually add the rest of the tamatillos until all are incorporated and the mixture is smooth

 Radish Pico de Gallo
  • 1 bunch radish, thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 1 English cucumber, seeds removed and diced small
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ habanero pepper, seeds and membrane removed and finely minced
  • 2 limes, with zest from 1 lime and both juiced
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and then refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend

Chicken Filling
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 7 whole cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbl chili powder
  • 2 Tbl paprika
  • 3 Tbl salt
  • 1 dried Ancho chili, sliced
  • 1 Cup of Tamatillo Sauce (recipe above)
  1. Place all ingredients into a pot and add enough water to cover
  2. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium and cover with a lid
  3. Cook chicken for about 30 minutes
  4. Turn off heat, but leave lid on pot and let chicken simmer in liquid for another couple of hours until cool enough to touch
  5. Remove chicken and separate meat from bones and shred the meat
  6. Add the 1 cup tamatillo sauce to shredded chicken

  • Blender
  • Mandolin
  • Chinese bamboo steamer baskets
  • 4 Cup Masa Harina
  • 4 oz (by weight) Lard
  • Water - enough to make a thick dough the consistency of clay
  • Fresh corn husks, washed to remove any grit
  • Queso fresco, for garnish

  1. Mix Masa Harina, Lard, & water according to package directions to make a thick dough the consistency of clay.
  2. Remove whole husk leaves from fresh ears of corn, being careful not to tear.
  3. For each tamale, take a piece of Masa dough, about the size of a small egg, and flatten it out in the middle of a corn husk to be approximately 2" x 4"
  4. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the chicken mixture down the middle of the Masa
  5. Roll the corn husk and tie ends with thin strips of corn husk
  6. Arrange tamale's on a chinese bamboo steamer basket
  7. Place over boiling water and steam for about 30 minutes until firm.
  8. Serve with Tomatillo Sauce and Radish Pico de Gallo
  • It was difficult to tell for sure; but, it appears Tiffany steamed just a square of Masa dough in the corn husks and then served them with the chicken mixture spooned on top - sort of a deconstructed tamale.  It's an alternative method; however, I prefer them to be a bit more traditional.  The advantage of Tiffany's method is you can put more meat.
  • The Radish Pico de Gallo is very non traditional - bordering on weird.  But, it is actually quite delicious.  After dinner we had a few tamales left over, but the Radish Pico de Gallo was gone.
  • I had a lot of the Tomatillo Sauce left over.  I suggest cutting the recipe in half as it doesn't keep very well (no more than a day or two).
  • Be very careful chopping the habanero pepper and wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water after handling it.
  • Although I haven't tried it, I think the chicken mixture would be very tasty in enchilada's.  You could make half the amount of tamale's and then make chicken enchiladas as a second dinner for the next day.  I would include monterrey jack cheese inside the enchilada's and sprinkle crumpled Queso fresco cheese on top.