For a big tamalada: double, triple, or quadruple this recipe!
If you wish to make your tamales ahead of time, they can be easily frozen. To reheat, partially defrost tamales. For pre-steamed tamales, you can place them in a microwave safe container with a top and cook 3 to 4 minutes. For unsteamed tamales, steam the tamales according to cooking instructions in the recipe. Adapted from a recipe by Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta.
For 12–14 tamales
20 corn husks
3 cups Maseca instant corn masa
1 tablespoon salt
¾ cup melted lard, more if needed, to moisten masa
3 cups warm water, plus more as needed
4–6 poblano chilies
2 cups local fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
12–14 ounces Cheddar or Monterey Jack, cut into 3-inch by ½-inch sticks, to yield 24–38 pieces
1 cup crema or sour cream thinned with a little milk
Twine, if not using corn husk strips to tie your tamales
Prepare the corn husks
Place the husks in hot water and let them soak while you prepare the recipe.
Make the masa
In a mixing bowl, combine masa flour and salt. Add melted lard and 2 cups of warm water. Mix dough together with your hands or with an electric mixer until all ingredients are integrated and the mixture is smooth. Add more water as needed. The consistency should resemble mashed potatoes. Taste the masa: It should be pleasantly salty. Add more salt if needed.
Place chiles under broiler (or on a heated grill) and broil for 5–8 minutes, turning occasionally, until skin is blackened. Transfer chilies into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the chilies to steam. When chilies cool, remove the stems, scrape away thin skin, and slit each pepper up 1 side in order to remove core, seeds, and ribs. Cut peppers into ½-inch-wide strips. Set aside.
Prepare the corn
Sauté corn and onion in butter over medium heat for 3–5 minutes, until fully warmed. Set aside.
Assemble the tamales
For each corn husk, place it down on the work surface. Place a generous ⅓ cup prepared masa in the center of the corn husk and flatten to ¼ inch thick. Place 2 sticks of cheese in the center of the dough, add 2 chili strips and 2 tablespoons of the corn and onion mixture.
Wrap tamales carefully: Fold long sides of the husk inward to enclose the filling in dough. Then the “pointy” end up to seal the bottom. Rest the tamales on a flat surface, folded seams down, while all of the tamales are being prepared. Tying the tamales with a strip of corn husk or cotton twine is optional.
Cook the tamales
Set a steamer basket in a large lidded pot. Fill bottom of pot with just enough water to come near the steamer bottom without touching it (water should not sit above the steamer basket). Put a single layer of corn husks on the bottom of the steamer basket. Place tamales folded end down in the basket and cover them with another single layer of corn husk. Cover pot, bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and let tamales rest 5 minutes before serving or placing in freezer bags.
Serve tamales on a plate unwrapped and drizzled with the crema (or sour cream mixture).