Duck Tamales

Pair with 2015 Lytton Springs

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Yield: Makes 12 tamales



  • 6 duck legs
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces puréed fresh Roma tomato
  • 4 ounces San Marzano or good quality tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dark chili powder
  • 1/8 cup onion powder
  • 1/8 cup garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
  • 2 cups diced red onion
  • 20 twists of fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/8 cup instant corn masa flour

  • 4 cups instant corn masa flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⅓ cups lard
  • 2⅔ cups warm water
  • 12 corn husks, soaked for four hours or overnight in water

Filling Instructions
Place duck legs in a stew pot. Add chicken broth to cover the legs by about one inch, and bring to a boil. Skim off excess fat, and add the tomato purée, paste, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, garlic, and pepper.

Simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove legs from the pot and cool for 15 minutes. Pull meat from the bones and put back into the pot.

Mix the instant corn masa and water together to make a smooth paste. Stir the paste with a whisk into the duck mixture. Simmer for at least 45 minutes to an hour, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool. This can be made a day or two in advance so that the cooled filling sets, which will make it a little easier to fill the tamales.

Tamale Instructions
Mix the masa, salt, lard, and warm water together. The mixture should be pliable enough to hold up to flattening without cracking. Using your hands, pat a 1½-inch to 2-inch ball of masa into a washed, dried corn husk into a flat circle about ¼-inch thick. Make the edges of the circle come about ½ inch from the sides and wider end of the husk, leaving at least 4 inches open at the narrow end of the husk. Spoon duck mixture onto the masa, making sure there are some meat pieces and a bit of the sauce to keep the tamale from being too dry. Fold over the filled tamale’s sides, with the second fold overlapping the first. Then fold the narrow end down over those folds and pinch that crease to help keep the tamale together (many people tie the tamales with strips of corn husk to help, but it’s not necessary).

Steaming the Tamales
When you have a number of tamales assembled, stand them up, folded side down, along the sides of your steaming pot. As you work your way to the middle, use the next layer to keep the flap on the previous layer from falling. Continue to fill the pot but leave yourself access to the bottom of the pot. Pour boiling water into the pot, ensuring that the water level is not touching the tamales. Once the steaming starts, cook for an hour and 10 minutes, until the masa looks to be pulling away from the husks. Keep a pan of simmering water handy in case you need to add more water to keep the steaming going. Remove and let them rest and firm up slightly. Serve when cool. Freeze remaining tamales for future consumption. Simply defrost and steam them until warm.

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