Mushroom Tamales with a Tomatillo Sunflower Seed Sauce Recipe

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Cooking with Seeds: 100 Delicious Recipes for the Foods You LoveThis best-for-the-weekend project is a little time consuming but well worth the effort for a light, fluffy, and delicious tamale. The deep flavor of the mushrooms perfectly balances the tangy, bright, and nutty flavor of the sauce. If possible, buy masa harina ground specifically for making tamales: Its coarser grind will ensure a lighter end result. When buying tomatillos, peel back a little of the paper to make sure that the fruit is firm and plump. The mushroom filling and tamale batter can be made two days ahead. (Before using the batter, beat it for a minute or so to loosen.) Serve as a meal with rice and beans, as an appetizer, or as part of a buffet.

  • Yield: 12 tamales


For the Tamale Dough
  • 14 large dried cornhusks
  • 1¾ cups masa harina
  • 0.66 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup vegetable stock
For the Filling
  • ½ ounce dry porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ small yellow onion, fi nely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • ½ poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
For the Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ pound tomatillos, papery skins discarded, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon green Tabasco sauce
How to Make It
  1. Soak the cornhusks in water for at least 1 hour.
  2. Make the Tamale Dough: Combine the masa and 1 cup of water in a bowl until everything just holds together. If there is still dry masa at the bottom of the bowl, add up to 2 additional tablespoons of water. Beat the shortening, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add half of the masa mixture and half of the stock and beat until combined. Add the remaining masa mixture and stock and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. To test that the dough is properly beaten, scoop a little into a small glass of water. It should float; if it doesn’t, beat a minute longer. Refrigerate the dough until chilled completely, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Make the Filling: Soak the porcini in ½ cup warm water until soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Lift the mushrooms from the soaking liquid and finely chop. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove any grit; reserve the liquid.
  4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and poblano. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms and soaking liquid. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt. Cool completely.
  5. Assemble the Tamales: Fit a large stockpot with a steamer basket and add just enough water so that it comes just to the bottom of the basket. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Drain the soaked cornhusks and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve the 12 largest and most intact (those without any cracks or tears). If your cornhusks have stiff, thick bottoms, cut off the thick part with kitchen shears before assembling the tamales. The stiffness will make folding hard. Tear the remaining 2 into long ½-inch-wide strips—these strips will be used to tie the rolled tamales so they hold together while they steam.
  7. Beat the chilled tamale dough until light and fluffy, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  8. Place a little of the tamale dough (about ¼ cup) in the middle of one of the cornhusks, being sure to leave a 1½-inch border on the bottom. Flatten the dough into a 4- to 5-inch square, with a small offset spatula. Place a little of the mushroom filling (about a heaping tablespoon), lengthwise, down the center of the dough, leaving a small border on the top and bottom. Working from the sides, use the cornhusk to help you bring the dough together and encase the filling (don’t worry if a few bits of mushroom are left exposed). Once the filling is encased, fold up the bottom of the cornhusk, fold in the sides, and then fold down the top. Use a strip of cornhusk to tie the package together. If the thin strips of torn cornhusks are not long enough to go around the formed tamales, simply tie two strips together to create a longer length. Repeat with the remaining cornhusks, dough, and filling.
  9. Set the tamales upright in the steamer basket and steam until the tamales no longer stick to the sides of the cornhusks, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. While the tamales are steaming, set your timer to go off every 20 to 30 minutes to check the water level in the pot. If the pot runs out of water, the bottom will scorch and give the tamales a very unpleasant burnt taste.
  10. Make the Sauce: Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeño. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are beginning to get soft, 12 to 14 minutes. Place the tomatillo mixture, cilantro, scallion, sunflower seeds, lime juice, and Tabasco in a blender. Blend on high until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve the tamales with the sauce.

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