Recipes & Cooking  |  12/18/2015

Pheasant and Roasted Poblano Tamales

It wouldn’t be the holidays without spending a few hours in the kitchen making food for loved ones. While this recipe can require a couple hours of solo prep work, tamale assembly is best enjoyed with a party of friends and family. Tamales freeze easily and are readily available later for when hungry relatives arrive during the holiday season.
Pheasant tamale filling makes for a delicious and succulent treat. Feel free to substitute your favorite red salsa, instead of ring-necked enchilada sauce. Many of these ingredients are easily located at any Mexican grocer.  
Makes approximately 10 tamales.


Tamale Dough
  • 1 1/3 cup lard
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons guajillo powder
  • 2 teaspoons ancho powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 cups masa flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 8 to 12 ounces plantain or banana leaves (frozen)
Tamale Stuffing  
  • 12 to 16 ounces cooked, shredded pheasant meat
  • 2 cups of Mexican shredded cheese
  • 4 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced and sautéed
Ring-necked Enchilada Sauce
  • Two 14.5-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Sambal chili paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of the following:
    • Ground coriander
    • Chili powder
    • Paprika
    • Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of the following:
    • Cumin
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder


Cook pheasant by preferred method or by baking on 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Whatever cut you bake, make certain internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cool pheasant in refrigerator, hand shred and set aside.
Thaw plantain or banana leaves. Mix lard and spices in mixer until fluffy then add masa flour, mix briefly. Add water. Dough may require slightly more flour for less sticky texture. Cover a prep board with Saran Wrap to roll out dough. Place dough in baseball size balls on covered board, flatten and roll out with rolling pin.
Pat dry leaves. Cut leaves into 6-by-8 or 8-by-8-inch squares. Consider spraying leaf’s filling side with canola oil. Use a spatula to cut and lift approximately 4-by-4-inch flatten squares of dough onto leaf. Press and further thin the dough. Add filling—a landing strip of cheese, 1 to 2 ounces of pheasant, a tablespoon each of onion and poblano. Use the leaf side closest to you to lift and fold the dough over the tamale, fold in the sides—again using the leaf. Then roll and paste any gaps with extra dough. To roll the leaf and seal the tamale, take the side closest to you and cover the tamale, fold in sides and roll like a burrito. Set aside until all are finished.
Begin boiling water in a steaming pot. In a separate sauce pan, add crushed tomatoes and chicken stock. Start simmering. Add remaining ingredients for enchilada sauce, simmer and stir often for 1 hour. Return to your boiling water. Once water is boiling and steam is rising, place the tamales on a rack (vertically if possible) and place the rack into the steaming pot and cover. Check often to make certain boiling water doesn’t dry out. Steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once dough is cooked, serve by removing the leaf and setting the tamale(s) on a plate, cover with sauce and garnish with grated cojita cheese, cilantro and sour cream. Enjoy!
Former line cook and passionate denizen of the outdoors, Jack Hennessy is the author of the blog “Braising the Wild.” He lives with his wife in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @WildGameJack or on Facebook at

Photo Credit: Dara Hennessy