This is Billy’s adaptation of a dish he first encountered at the hotel La Casa de Maty in Tapalpa, Jalisco. The use of Swiss chard leaves to wrap the tamales, instead of the usual banana leaves or corn husks, means that the tamales do not have to be unwrapped before eating and gives them another dimension of flavor.
For the tamales:
- 2 heads Swiss chard (use only the largest leaves)
- 1 pound fresh corn masa (dough)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces melted butter
- 4 tablespoons Mexican crema or crème fraiche
- ¼ cup warm water or as needed
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the Swiss chard for 3 minutes, being careful not to tear the leaves.
Carefully drain the Swiss chard, discarding the cooking liquid or saving it to add to soup. Refresh the leaves gently under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again.
Spread the Swiss chard on paper towels, gently opening the leaves, and pat dry. Repeat the process with fresh paper towels. Set aside.
Place the prepared masa in a bowl, add the baking powder, salt, butter and cream, and mix with a stiff spoon or your hand. Mixture should be about the consistency of semi-thick cake frosting. Add up to ¼ cup of warm water if necessary to achieve this consistency.
Using a spatula, spread masa mixture on Swiss chard leaves, folding the leaves over to form envelopes. Any holes may be patched with small pieces of Swiss chard leaves or the tamales may be double wrapped with Swiss chard. (As the tamales cook, they will firm up and look fine.)
Steam over boiling water in a tamalera or steamer. Start checking for firmness after 20 minutes, although they may take up to 1 hour. Test by slicing into one. The filling should have firmed up but remain slightly soft to the touch.
Serve with warm tomatillo herb sauce (below.) This is a nice brunch dish, a first course for dinner, or a main course at lunch. Makes 8-10 tamales.