Traditionally, tamales are cooked in a tamalera, a metal pot with a steamer tray that can cook up to 6 dozen tamales. We found that you can achieve similar results with an oven method that doesn't require special equipment. Place up to 2 dozen tamales on a broiler rack lined with a damp towel, cover tamales with another damp towel, and place rack in a broiler pan filled with hot water to a depth of about 1/2 inch. (Use old towels if possible because they may discolor.)
Look for specific ingredients at local supermarkets and Latin markets.
- Masa harina: This flour is made from sun-dried corn kernels cooked in limewater, and then ground.
- Lard: You'll find lard, made from rendered pork fat, in refrigerated cases or the frozen foods section of some specialty markets. Our recipe for Basic Masa Dough uses just a touch of lard to bind and flavor the dough. If you can't find lard, you can use an equal amount of vegetable shortening.
- Dried corn husks: Used to wrap tamales and keep them moist while cooking, corn husks are not eaten. Other traditional wrappers include banana and plantain leaves.
Weigh corn husks down; cover with water. Soak them at least 30 minutes.
Shape about 3 tablespoons Basic Masa Dough into a rectangle, and spoon filling on top.
Fold corn husk over, covering filling with dough.
Fold husk over again.
Fold bottom end of husk up and over tamale.
Place tamales, seam sides down, on the rack of a broiler pan lined with a damp towel; cover. Cook as directed in recipe below.