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Tamales de Calabaza con Chocolate

Chef Pilar Cabrera operates Casa de los Sabores Cooking School at her bed & breakfast, La Casa de los Sabores, in the Oaxaca historical district.
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I would like to share with you a recipe that I really enjoyed, Tamales de Calabaza (squash) con chocolate. Fall is a good time to prepare this recipe when all kinds of squashes and pumpkins are available in the market. Remember it's always best to eat what is in season. Serves 20. - Pilar Cabrera

    1/2 cup lard, or shortening
    2-1/2 cups of masa (cornmeal)
    2-1/2 cups of squash puree
    1 tsp of baking powder
    5-1/2 oz. lard or butter
    1/2 tsp of salt
    1/4 cup of walnuts
    1-1/2 cups of oaxacan chocolate divided into pieces
    1 cup of panela

Beat the lard, or shortening, in large bowl until it warms and becomes easier to mix (about 5 min.). Add the squash puree masa. Add the baking powder, salt and panela; mix the ingredients together vigorously until smooth.

Soak the corn husks in water for about 10 min. to soften. Cup 1 corn husk in your hand. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the mix on the bottom and side portions of the husk to about a 1/2" thick. (adjust the amout of tamale mixture according to size of husk and desired thickness). Add the chocolate and the walnut.

Fold both sides of the husks shut, and fold in the top and bottom portions so that all the mixture is enclosed in the husk (you may tie this secure with excess ribbon of the husk). Continue until there are no remaining husks or tamale mix.

Place the prepared tamales about " apart in a tamalera, or steamer. DO NOT PLACE DIRECTLY IN WATER. Steam for one hour. Check occasionally to make sure that 2 of water remain and all water does not evaporate. After 1 hour, remove 1 tamale and let cool for 5 minutes; continue steaming other tamales.

Open the cooled tamale husk and, if you can easily remove the husk, take the remaining tamales from the tamalera; if not, continue cooking the others until the husk of cooked tamales can easily be removed.

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