Blue Crab Tamales Recipe from ‘A South You Never Ate’

by Coastal Virginia Magazine | Dec 18, 2019

A South You Never Ate

From A South You Never Ate: Savoring Flavors and Stories from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Copyright © 2019 by Bernard L. Herman. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.


Blue Crab Tamales Recipe from A South You Never Ate

Amy Brandt and Gricelda Seguro Torres, Amy B Catering, Cheriton, Va.

Makes 20 tamales

Special equipment: A steam pot or a large pot fitted with a steamer basket



20 dried corn husks, soaked for 24 hours

1 cup Crisco shortening

1 cup manteca (rendered pork lard, available in the refrigerator section at Mexican grocery stores; be sure to mix before measuring)

1/2 of a 4.4 pound bag masa harina

2 tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

About 6 cups warm shrimp stock

1 pound crabmeat

2 poblano peppers, blistered, peeled, seeded and cut into 1- × 2-inch strips

1/2 pound queso fresco, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 bunch cilantro, washed, dried and leaves separated

Salsa Verde (recipe follows)



Drain the corn husks in a colander for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the Crisco and manteca on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the masa harina all at once and beat the mixture until completely combined. Add the salt and baking powder and combine thoroughly. Add the stock a little bit at a time until the dough is soft and passes the float test (drop a pinch of the dough into a small bowl of cold water; if the dough floats, it’s the right consistency).

Working with 1 corn husk at a time, place it on a flat surface with the pointy end facing away from you. Place 3 tablespoons of the tamale dough onto the husk and spread it evenly over the bottom two-thirds of the husk. Place 4 cilantro leaves in the middle of the dough, then top with a tablespoon of crabmeat, one strip of poblano and one or two cubes of cheese. Fold the sides of the husk in and then fold the pointy end up to seal. Repeat until all the dough is used.

Fill a steamer pot with water to just below (and not touching) the steamer bottom. (Alternatively, place a steamer basket in the bottom of a stockpot and add water to just below the steamer basket.) Place the tamales side by side, open end up, in the pot. Cover the tamales with a dish towel folded and tucked around the tamales, then wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to create a tight seal. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, lower the heat and bring to a simmer. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the top and towel and let the tamales sit for 20 minutes before removing. Serve immediately with the Salsa Verde.


Salsa Verde

Makes 4 cups



6 jalapeños, stemmed

10 tomatillos, husks removed

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/2 onion, peeled and rough chopped

1 bunch cilantro, washed, shaken dry and rough chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Place the jalapeño, tomatillos and garlic in the dry pan and toast the vegetables until lightly blackened (they should be just slightly cooked). Transfer the vegetables to a blender and blend just until chunky. Place the onions and cilantro in medium bowl, add the contents of the blender and the lime juice, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Serve cold. (For best flavor, refrigerate the salsa overnight or up to 1 week.)

City and lifestyle magazine celebrating the Southeast Virginia region and its unique charm, customs and ways of living

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