Chicken Tamales

40 to 50 dried corn husks
cooking spray
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 tsp. chicken base or bouillon
1 lb. bonelss skinless chicken breasts or tenders with tendons removed
1 to 2 fresh roasted poblanos or pasilla chilies
16 to 18 small green olives, thinly sliced
1 cup yellow corn meal
3 1/2 cups cold water
3 tsp. chicken base or bouillon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1/8 to 1/4 cup stock or warm water

1. Place corn husks in large pot; add very hot water to cover. Top husks with plate or heavy jar to keep them submerged. Let husks stand for at least 3 hours overnight.

2. Preheat a large stick-resistant pan or skillet on medium. Saute onion and garlic and until soft, about 4 min. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, salt and chili powder; add tomatoes, tomato paste, and bouillon. Increase heat to medium-high, add chicken and bring sauce to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is tender, 20 min. for breasts, 10 to 15 for tenders. Remove chicken from sauce and set aside to cool.

3. Increase to medium. Stirring frequently, cook until the consistency of thick tomato sauce, then reduce heat to low.

4. Cut or shred chicken into small pieces; add chicken and olives to sauce. Cook all ingredients together 2 to 3 min; cover and remove from heat. Drain corn husks; rinse and if necessary rub each husk under running water to remove any silk or debris. Drain well; pat dry and wrap in a towel to keep pliable.

5. Combine cornmeal, salt, bouillon and 3 1/2 cups cold water in a media saucepan. Stiring constantly with a wooden spoon, bring to boil over high heat. Continuing to stir constantly, reduce to medium and cook until cornmeal mush pulls away from sides and bottom of pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Transfer cornmeal mush to large mixer bowl; add egg and egg whites beat 1 to 2 min. A fourth of a cup at a time, beat masa harina into mixture until thoroughly blended. If dough seems too thick to spread easily, beat an additional 1/8 to 1/4 cup stock or warm water into dough.

7. To prepare tamales: Lightly spray a corn husk with cooking spray; place 1 heaping tablespoon of dough in center of husk. Spread dough evenly into a 3- to 4- square about 1/4- inch thick and top with 2 to 3 Tbl. chicken mixture. Fold right, then left sides of husk over filling. Set tamale aside seam-side-down and repeat the process.

8. Line a large steamer pot with some of remaining cornhusks. Stack tamales seam side down inside pot. Cover last layer of tamales with cornhusks and /or a kitchen towel. Place pot above 3- to 4- inches boiling water; cover pot and reduce heat to maintain gentle boil. Steam tamales about 1 1/2 hours; remove a tamale from the center of pot and carefully unwrap. If dough pulls easily away from husk, it’s done. If necessary, steam 5 to 10 minutes longer and test again until done. Serve tamales hot.

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