Corn Tamales with Swiss Chard

May  8, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by Tom Hirschfeld/
  • Makes 8
Author Notes

I love tamales. I go to them like a fly on stink. If they are on a menu I will order them. I cannot resist them and they have an odd power over me that I wish I could explain. I am pretty sure it is the masa. Masa harina comes in a couple of forms, fresh which is rare and the more common instant masa comes in yellow or white meal and can be found at almost all groceries in my neck of the woods so I can't imagine it is hard to find elsewhere. Masa is slacked in culinary lime which gives it its unique flavor. You can by all means use a fine grind cornmeal here but it will not be the same flavor. Think corn tortillas chips vs Fritos. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • For the Tamales
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels off the cob
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow masa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1 cup warm water or a light stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon lime zest
  • 12 to 14 dried corn husks
  • For the Swiss chard
  • 8 cups Swiss chard, rinsed, dried, stems removed and cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and julienned
  • 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  1. Soak the corn husk in warm water. If needed set a plate on top of them to keep them submerged.
  2. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels into a large mixing bowl (or a mixer with a paddle attachment). Add the yellow masa, baking powder, 4 tablespoons of the butter, lard, salt and parmesan.
  3. Combine these ingredients in the same fashion you would for biscuits. In other words mix until the lard and butter is dispersed. The end result should look like struesel.
  4. Add the liquid and combine until you have a soft dough.
  5. Remove the corn husks from the water and drain them. They don't have to be dry but you don't want lots of excess liquid. Sort through the husk and find 2 or 3 that are thicker then the others and tear them lengthwise into 20 strips. Twenty is more then you need but inevitably a couple will break so you will want extras.
  6. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Form them into 1 inch thick logs and place each log into the ear side or curved side so to speak, of a corn husk. Roll the husk so it wraps the masa dough and then tie each end with a strip of husk. If you tie them a little loosely you can then slide the tie up snug against the dough then cinch it tight. Be careful not to tug to hard or the corn husk strip will snap. Set the tamales into a steamer basket.
  7. Place the steamer basket into a pot with already boiling water. Cover, reduce the heat so your water doesn't boil away to nothing and cook the tamales for 30 minutes.
  8. In the bowl of a food processor puree half the remaining corn until it is a pulpy cream. It doesn't need to be smooth.
  9. In a small sauce pan add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and place it over medium heat. When the butter is warm add the garlic. Let it sweat without browning.
  10. Add the cream, corn and season it with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.
  11. Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once it is hot add the onion. Season with heavy pinch of salt and pepper and cook the onions until they begin to brown and are soft. Add the chile flakes just before you add the chard.
  12. Add the chard and turn it with a pair of tongs to coat it with the oil. Season with more salt and pepper and cook the chard, covered, until it is tender, still vibrant but not mush. If the pan seems dry you can add a little water, a tablespoon or so.
  13. Make sure everything is hot. Add the lime to the creamed corn. Stir to combine.
  14. Add the tarragon to the chard and stir.
  15. Place a serving portion of chard onto a plate. Using a knife slice each tamale, just like you would a baked potato, and then grab each tied end and push gently inward so you open up the corn husk packets. Place 1 or 2 tamales onto the chard and top with creamed corn. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • citlalnahuac
  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • Lilismom
  • 20ozMocha

4 Reviews

citlalnahuac July 22, 2013
FYI: The limed-slaked corn, before it's ground, is called nixtamal (originally pronounced as though the 'x' were an 'sh', now usually an 's'). The word is from the Aztec language, Nahuatl, and means 'corn treated with ashes'. Hominy is basically the same thing, just called by a word from Powhatan, an Eastern Native American language. (Pocahontas spoke Powhatan.) Masa (which means 'dough', and can be made from anything in Spain, but almost always means corn dough - masa de maiz - in the New World) is made from the ground nixtamal, fat, and a flavorful liquid; it's only 'fresh' if you make it directly from newly-prepared nixtamal. You can get prepared masa from ethnic stores (easily around here, in Southern California), but there's no real guarantee that it's actually 'fresh' unless you watch them grind it (and the masas for tortillas and things like arepas and pupusas aren't the same as masa for tamales; you need to specify). Masa harina is nixtamal that has been dried and ground (harina means roughly 'flour'), which can then have fat and liquid added to make the masa dough. Maseca, which is sometimes used as a synonym for masa harina, is actually a major brand name (kinda like calling all tissues Kleenex...), and is a portmanteau of 'masa' and 'seca' which means 'dry'.
20ozMocha July 3, 2013
My first tamale experience, and these are pure heaven. I can't imagine one iota of better-ness. Thank you for this recipe!
Fran M. March 29, 2013
Wow these look just too good not to try.
Lilismom June 7, 2012
Well.....shall is be the onion chowder first, then these tamales? I think so!