How to make tamales filled with roasted peppers and cheese wrapped in banana leaves. Jump to the Roasted Peppers and Cheese Tamales Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.
I never knew much about tamales before I knew Adam. For as long as he can remember, Christmas Eve meant tamales. His mother does what I am sure her mother did when she was a child; she prepares the filling, soaks corn husks and then gathers all of her children round the dining room table to spend the next few hours making tamales, talking and laughing, often to Christmas music, which she still plays on her old vinyl record player.
These tamales are not my Mother-in-Law’s, but how could they be, it is not Christmas Eve and it was only Adam, myself and Marmalade who were bundling up the little guys. Plus instead of using corn husks (her favorite) we use banana leaves.
They are delicious, don’t get me wrong, but something tells me they would have tasted a bit better with everyone else there too.
So maybe part of our recipe for this one is family. Trust us, you will want the help; filling, then folding tamale after tamale can get a bit tedious, but in the end it’s worth it.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Burgers topped with homemade queso sauce made with Monterey Jack cheese, avocado and fresh salsa. Jump to the Queso Blanco Burger Recipe.
Recipe updated, originally posted December 2010. Since posting this in 2010, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Roasted Peppers and Cheese Tamales Recipe
Making tamales can be time consuming, but trust us, it is worth it. If you have someone around, get some help when it comes to filling and folding the packets. It’s nice to share the workload and experience.
Make-ahead: Both the batter and the finished tamales can be made ahead of time. Refrigerate, well covered then re-steam or use a microwave to heat before serving. The batter and tamales can also be frozen, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator before re-steaming.
You Will NeedTamale Batter
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina for tamales
2 1/4 cups hot water
10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) pork lard or vegetable shortening, slightly softened
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 (1-pound) packages banana leaves, defrosted if frozenFilling
4 poblano peppers
4 Anaheim peppers
24 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
- Prepare Peppers
1Place peppers onto the grill over moderately high heat. Cook, turning occasionally until most of the skin has blistered and turned dark brown or black. Or do this under your oven broiler.
2Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so they steam. After 15 minutes peel away the blistered skin from each pepper then remove the stems. Scrape away some or all of the seeds and white membrane inside the peppers depending on how spicy you want the tamales. Chop the peppers into small pieces ready for filling.
- Make Batter
1In a medium bowl, combine the masa harina and hot water.
2In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with the salt and baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute.
3Continue beating as you add the masa mixture in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light). Beat in enough additional broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft, but not runny cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon.
4Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think necessary. Refrigerate the batter for one hour, then use an electric mixer to beat enough additional broth to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.
- Prepare Banana Leaves
1Unfold the banana leaves and cut off the long, hard sides of the leaves (where they were attached to the central vein).
2Look for holes or rips then cut the leaves into 20 unbroken 12-inch segments. If necessary, steam the segments for 20 minutes to make them soft, pliable and glossy.
3Cut twenty 12-inch pieces of string or thin strips of banana leaf for securing the tamales when filled.
- Prepare Steamer
1Set a large steamer or collapsible vegetable steamer into a large, deep saucepan. Line the steamer with leftover scraps of banana leaves to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor, but make sure to leave small spaces between leaves so condensing steam can drain away.
- Assemble Tamales
1Lay out a square of banana leaf, shiny-side up, then spread 1/3 cup of the batter into an 8×4-inch rectangle over it.
2Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cheese and sprinkle some roasted peppers over the left side of the rectangle of batter.
3Fold in the right third of the leaf so that the batter folds over the filling. Then do the same with the opposite sides making sure that the batter covers all of the filling.
4Fold in an uncovered third of the leaf, and then fold in all the sides, making a square packet. Loosely tie the packet with string or thin strip of banana leaf.
- Steam Tamales
1Set the tamales into the steamer. Cover the tamales with a layer of banana leaf scraps or leftovers.
2Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, add more water if necessary). The tamales are done when the leaf peels away from the masa easily.
3Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.