Tamales are truly a world unto themselves. No other food can quite match the uniqueness and tradition of tamales. They do take a bit of extra effort to prepare but it can make for an enjoyable Sunday activity. The tamales in this recipe are unfilled making preparation somewhat easier. The flavor of the sweet potatoes pairs well with the spicy, smoky chipotle chilies and aromatic cinnamon in this special tamale dough. Sweet potatoes are among the most nutritious of vegetables. They have a high beta-carotene content and also supply substantial amounts of vitamins C and B6, and manganese, as well as a small amount of potassium. If you have never made tamales from scratch at home, do try it. Invite some friends over and turn it into a tamale party. Serve these tamales with a fresh green salsa or rich mole for an extraordinary dinner.
Sweet Potato Tamales
Homemade Salsa Verde
Anasazi Beans
Seared Chard with Leeks and Chilies


1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
olive oil
salt and pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 canned chipotle chiles, drained and minced
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup vegetable broth
1-1/4 cups dehydrated masa flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
about 20 dried corn husks, soaked for at least 20 minutes

Cooking Instructions

Rub the sweet potato halves with a touch of olive oil on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set the sweet potatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven until soft when pressed (about 1 hour.) Scoop the flesh from the sweet potatoes (discarding skins) into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Mix in the brown sugar, cinnamon and minced chipotles.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and vegetable broth and stir until the butter has melted and the broth is warm. Add this mixture to the sweet potatoes and mix well. Gradually add the masa flour and baking powder, stirring until well blended. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

Tear 3 or 4 corn husks into long, thin strips. Lay a whole husk flat on a work surface with the long edge closest to you. Lightly wipe dry with a cloth. Spoon a scant 1/3 cup of filling lengthwise down center of husk. Fold the bottom edge over the filling and then fold in the sides so that the filling is completely encased. Tie each end with a thin strip of husk. Repeat until all filling is used.

In an 8- to 10-quart pan, position a rack at least an inch above 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Set the tamales on the rack, lower the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and steam until the tamale filling is firm (about 1 hour), adding water to the pan as needed to maintain 1-inch depth. Remove tamales and let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 12 to 15 tamales



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There are two basic types of sweet potato. The sweeter orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties are the most common in U.S. markets (this variety is preferred for this recipe.) They are often incorrectly referred to as yams; true yams, however, are rarely found outside of Africa or Asia. There is also a starchier yellow-fleshed type of sweet potato that is not as common.

Dried corn husks are available in many supermarkets and in Mexican markets. Before using, separate the husks and discard any corn silk and then soak the husks in warm water until pliable (at least 20 minutes.) You will need about 15 large, well-shaped husks for the tamales and 3 to 4 to tear into strips for tying. You may want to soak a few extra in case some tear in the process.

You can prepare and steam the tamales up to a day ahead. Cover tightly and chill. Reheat in a steamer for 15 to 20 minutes.

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