Recipe courtesy of Vianney Rodriguez

Marigold Tamales

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 30 min
  • Active: 2 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 16 servings
Marigolds remind me of my abuelita. She was the matriarch of our annual tamalada, when the family gathered to make tamales. I wanted to share a recipe that encompasses my love for her and honors her memory with this twist on chicken tamales. They are flavored with marigolds, considered the "flower of the dead" during the season of Dia de los Muertos when they are placed on an altar for the souls of the departed to help them find their way home. The dried flowers also add a fragrant, earthy taste to the poached chicken filling.




Assembly and Serving:


Special equipment:
a tamale steamer pot or steamer insert
  1. For the chicken: Put the chicken in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, bay leaf, oregano, marigolds and salt. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the chicken comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the chicken is cooked, allow it to cool in the broth for up to 30 minutes. Remove from the broth and shred with two forks. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve discarding the vegetables and herbs and reserve. The chicken can be made a day ahead. Store the shredded chicken and broth separately, covered in the refrigerator.  
  3. For the masa: Warm the reserved chicken broth. Beat the lard until light and fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the masa harina, baking powder and salt and continue beating until combined, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to incorporate all the masa harina. Slowly add the warm chicken broth 1 cup at a time until the masa is smooth and spreadable (you may not need all the broth). To test if the masa is ready to use, add a spoonful to a glass of water. If it floats it is ready. If it sinks, add additional lard 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to mix until it floats. 
  4. For assembly and serving: Remove the husks from the soaking water, drain and keep moist with a damp kitchen towel or damp paper towels. Moisten the chicken with some reserved chicken broth if needed. 
  5. Using a spoon, spread a spoonful of masa onto center of a corn husk and spread about 1/2 inch thick with the back of the spoon leaving a 1/2-inch border along the side and a 2-inch border from the top. Put about 2 tablespoons shredded chicken in the center of the masa. Fold the sides until they overlap, fold the narrow end under using the husk to press the masa dough over the filling. Place the prepared tamale on a baking sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and repeat until all the tamales are assembled.  
  6. Put the tamales upright in a tamale steamer, nestled together to prevent them from falling over. Fill the tamale steamer with about 2 inches of water—the water should not touch the tamales. Cover with the lid, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, adding more water if needed. To check the tamales, carefully remove 1 tamale from the steamer. Tamales are ready when they can easily be removed from the husk. If the tamale does not easily remove from the husk, cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the tamales to stand in the steamer for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  7. Carefully remove the tamales from the steamer and serve warm, garnished with diced onions and dried marigolds if using.  

Cook’s Note

Masa harina can be found in the Latin section of your grocery store or in the baking aisle next to the cornmeal. To soak the dried corn husks, put them in a large bowl and cover with hot water, using a molcajete or other heavy object to help keep them submerged for at least 2 hours.