When you think of tamales, what’s the first filling you think of? Pork with salsa verde or green chile and cheese, maybe? How about asparagus and pepper jack? Drive east on 90 from Seattle and on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass in the Yakima Valley, there’s a tamale joint called Los Hernandez, famous for their asparagus and pepper jack tamales. People rave about ‘em.
Available only in season, I’ve still got a few more weeks to get out there, but June is going to be an action-packed month with BlogHerFood next weekend, a trip to Victoria in the offing, so in case I don’t make it, I had a go at my own asparagus and pepper jack tamales. Some I made with just asparagus and pepper jack, others I added in some chopped Hatch chiles.
If you’ve never made tamales, I have to tell you, it’s actually not hard at all, and doing just a small batch keeps the labor manageable. The key is to evenly press out the masa and don’t overfill it. The corn husk will help with the rolling. Don’t second guess and try to “check it.” Be confident! Just roll it and tie it. Done the Los Hernandez way, which looks like they mix the asparagus into the masa and then lay a big dollop into the husk, it’s even easier.
These tamales steam for 45 minutes, so you won’t need to cook the asparagus first.
Asparagus & Pepper Jack Tamales
Makes 12 small tamales
15 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
Masa (adapted slightly from the recipe on the bag of Maseca)
2 1/2 c. instant Maseca for tamales
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. vegetable shortening
2 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. pepper jack cheese, grated
1/2 lb. asparagus, pencil thin, ends snapped and chopped into 2 inch pieces
½ lb. hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded & diced (optional, if desired)
For the Masa
In a medium bowl , mix together the instant Maseca, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the shortening until light and fluffy. Stir in the Maseca mixture until a soft dough forms.
Tear one of the corn husks into narrow strips to create ties for the tamales.
To form the tamales, scoop a hunk of masa into a ball a little larger than a golf ball and flatten in your hand to roughly form a rectangle. Lay it down on the corn husk and press it into a ~4 to 5 inch long rectangle, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Arrange about 4-6 asparagus pieces, about 2 t. of chiles (if you’re using them) and a sprinkle of cheese in the center of the masa. Fold it over to seal it and tie each end with a corn husk strip.
Set a steamer basket into the bottom of a large soup pot and fill with water, but make sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer. Lay finished tamales in the steamer basket, bring the water to a boil and steam for 45 minutes.