A Word From The Cook
“Making tamales at home requires a bit of work, but it's worth it! Invite some friends over and throw a Hot Tamale Party! We do this annually on New Year's Eve.”
3.5 - 4 Hours
- For the Pork Filling
- 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3-3 1/2 Pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed, and cut into chunks
- 1 Medium white onion, roughly chopped
- 6 Garlic cloves
- 4 Dried bay leaves
- 2-3 Sprigs fresh thyme or oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano)
- 2-3 Whole cloves
- 1-2 Dried red chiles (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then seeded and drained)
- 1-2 Teaspoons kosher salt
- 8-10 Whole black peppercorns
- 8-10 Whole allspice berries
- For the Chile Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Medium white onion roughly chopped
- 2 Full heads of garlic (approx. 25 cloves)
- 6-8 Dried ancho chiles (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then seeded and drained)
- 2 Cups tomato purée
- 2 Cups reserved pork cooking broth or chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon tamale-grind masa harina
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar or honey
- 1 Teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 Teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2-3 Cinnamon sticks
- For the Masa
- 3 1/2 Cups tamale-grind masa harina (corn-flour)
- 1 1/2 Cups unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
- 2 - 2 1/2 Cups reserved pork cooking broth
- 40 Dried corn husks
Step 1 – Make the Pork Filling
Brown the pork in a heavy duty 8-quart pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Work in batches to brown the pork (3-4 minutes per side).
Transfer to a bowl after browning.
After all meat is cooked, return pork to the pot and add enough water to cover it.
Add remaining pork filling ingredients and bring to boil.
Cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer.
Continue cooking until meat falls apart (1-1 1/2 hours).
Remove meat from pot, cool slightly, and shred using 2 forks pulling away from each other.
Strain and reserve the broth, skimming off excess fat.
(Step 1 and 2 can be done in advance, even the day before with meat and broth refrigerated separately)
Step 2 – Make the Chile Sauce
In a 4 quart saucepan, cook the onion and garlic in 1 1/2 tablespoons oil coated saucepan over medium heat until almost brown (approx. 5 minutes).
Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the soaked chiles, tomatoes, and a bit of the broth.
Purée until smooth.
Back in the saucepan, add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and bring to medium heat.
Add the masa harina and cook for about a minute.
Add the tomato chile mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir while it darkens in color.
Add sugar, cumin, oregano, allspice, cloves, and 2 1/2 teaspoon salt, with enough pork broth to thin to a sauce consistency.
Add cinnamon sticks, reduce heat and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. The sauce will darken and develop a sheen on the surface as it thickens.
Season to taste. Add broth if needed to ensure saucy texture.
Step 3 – Make Masa, Assemble, and Steam
In large bowl, mix the masa with 2 1/4 cups hot water.
Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes ( can be refrigerated over night)
Using a stand-up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter until fluffy.
Add 1 teaspoon salt and continue beating while adding the masa in small batches.
After about half of masa is added, continue adding masa alternating with the pork broth, using about 2 cups total broth.
Add about 1/4 cup of the chile sauce to masa mix and beat until fluffy.
Test the masa by dropping 1/2 teaspoonful in water. It should float. If it doesn’t, continue to whip. You can also add a bit of broth, but be careful not to add too much. You don’t want soft, shapeless tamales.
Soak husks in very hot water for 30- 45 minutes.
Rip long thin strips from 2-3 husks and set aside to be used later as ties.
In a medium bowl, mix 2 cups of the chile sauce with the shredded pork. Season to taste.
Set up an assembly line to fill, wrap and tie tamales.
Husks should be dry and smooth side up.
Fill husks with 1/3 cup masa in the center of the husk. With the back of a spoon, spread masa over 1/2 to 2/3 of the husk, leaving a half inch border around the edge.
Put 2-3 tablespoons of the pork filling into the middle of the masa.
Fold corn husks in half lengthwise so that edges meet. Then fold the seam back so that it’s in the center of the tamale. Then fold tail up to cover the seam. Tie the corn husk around the middle.
Steam the Tamales
Fill a deep 8 quart pot with pasta insert with enough water to reach just below the insert. Bring to boil over high heat.
Arrange tamales open end up in the insert. Fit the insert into the pot. Cover pot with lid and steam for an hour to an hour and a half.
Check water to ensure constant steam. If needed, add boiling water to pot to maintain heat and steam.
Tamales are ready when masa if fully set and husk wrapper can be easily pulled away from masa with masa retaining it’s shape.
When done, let tamales rest for 5-10 minutes.
Serve tamales wrapped on the plate with extra sauce. Let guests unwrap the tamales just before eating.