Tamales Veracruzanos or Zacahuil (Tamal from Veracruz Recipe)

In Veracruz, these tamales are sometimes referred to as Zacahuil (pronouced Zaca-wheel), from their original Aztec nahuatl language name.  This is a recipe for a hearty chicken or turkey tamale that comes to us from Veracruz, Mexico. This one is usually prepared using banana-tree leaves and Hoja Santa leaves, unlike most tamale recipes from Mexico that frequently use corn husks.

Recipe for The Veracruz Tamales (Zacahuil recipe):

Tamales Veracruzanos
A nice Tamal Veracruzano is a statisfying meal in itself...

4 pounds corn masa for tamales
8 cups of the broth made by the chicken breasts boiling (seen below);
you can add more dry chicken broth powder for a stronger taste
2 pounds of lard
Salt, to your taste
2 big Hoja Santa leaves, finely cut (very common ingredient in recipes from Veracruz)
Banana-tree leaves are mandatory, cut in rectangles of 6 x 8 inches;

For the filling:
4 entire chicken breasts, boiled (boiling water saved for later in the recipe) and cut very finely to small bits
8 ancho chiles, with seeds discarted
4 chiles morita, seeds removed
3 chilis chipotles, seeds removed (not the canned ones)
2 red tomatoes; roasted, skin removed, diced and strained.
5 tablespoons of lard
10 large Hoja santa leaves, cut in strips
Salt, to your taste


First: how to make the filling:

Boil your chicken breasts in 8 cups of water; when they are ready pull them out and reserve.
Put your chipotle chilis in warm water for 30 minutes, until they soften.
Once they are soft, drop them in your food processor and liquefy them with that same water you soaked them in.
Warm the lard and then add to it the diced tomato, seasoning it well, to your taste.
As you mix this when the mixture becomes uniform add the ground chilis. Allow this to simmer for a few minutes.
Finally add the very finely chopped chicken breast bits.

Second: preparing the tamal dough:

Dissolve the corn flour (masa) in the broth in a big casserole, under low heat.
Once dissolved, remove unwanted lumps and increase heat to high setting,
when it starts to boil add to this the lard, the chopped hoja santa leaves and salt to your taste.
Lower the fire setting to medium while strirring constantly for 20 minutes or until the dough is cooked.
(mexican corn tamal dough, a more detailed procedure here)

Third: assembling the tamales:

Spread the rectangles of banana leaves with a very full tablespoon of dough and put in the center the filling,
then a strip of Hoja santa leaf and fold the side ends of the sheet towards the center, do the same with the ends,
then close each individual Tamal with a small rope (twine) or even with a few strips of the same banana tree leaf.

Place them in a steamer lined with banana leaves, cover with another layer of banana leaves.
Cover the steamer and turn the heat on for one hour or so, until the banana leaves are starting to come off the tamales.

This Zacahuil recipe can be used for an appetizer as well as a main course...

mexican recipes

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