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  • Author: from Adrian Davila’s “Cowboy Barbecue”Cookbook


This spicy, tangy, and light chicken filling is a delight for those who like a traditional Mexican tamale with a kick


  • 1 3-to 4-pound whole chicken, giblets removed
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • Tamales Masa
  • 30 presoaked corn husks



  1. Put the corn husks in a large bowl, then cover them with hot water, until they are completely submerged, for a minimum of 1 hour, preferably overnight. This step ensures that they are pliable and will not burn during cooking.
  2. Remove the husks from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Put them in a covered dish or plastic bag to ensure that they do not dry out.


  1. Put the whole chicken, onion, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 2 of the garlic cloves in a large pot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the chicken begins to separate from the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the chicken, reserving the chicken broth for later use.
  2. Allow the chicken to cool, then shred the meat, using two forks. Set the chicken aside.
  3. Combine the tomatillos, serrano peppers, cilantro, remaining 2 garlic cloves, remaining tablespoon of salt, and 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth in a blender. Blend on high speed until it becomes a smooth, sauce consistency, not a paste. If it is pasty, add more liquid as needed.
  4. Warm the chicken and the broth mixture together in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and put the chicken and broth in a large bowl to allow to cool.
  5. To assemble the tamales, take a soaked cornhusk and put about 1/4 cup (depending on the size of the husk) of prepared tamale masa in the middle of the widest part of the husk. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the masa, covering the cornhusk evenly, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges.
  6. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of filling mixture to the center of the masa. Roll the sides over, enclosing the filling completely. Fold the tapered end of the cornhusk up, in half. If desired, you can secure it closed by tying a strip of husk around the middle. Repeat until you have used up the entire filling.
  7. Arrange the tamales, with open ends up, in a large, prepared steamer pot or pot fitted with a steaming basket. Steam until the dough separates from the husk, about 1 hour.
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