Sunday, December 19, 2010
Every year come holiday time, little brown faces around my part of the country begin to smile in anticipation of Christmas Tamales.
We've been trying really hard to make this one of our family traditions. Neither my husband or myself really grew up with many traditions so we're working to make our own for Bubba. I like the idea that we can mix religious, cultural, and secular things to come up with our own version of the celebration. As part of my celebration, since I can't have you all over for dinner, I'm going to post the recipe I use. My tamales are not hot and spicy. I make only the kind that I like, which is red chile pork. I'm just not a fan of sweet tamales or green corn. Tamales are comfort food, and you don't mess with Grandma's comfort food!
So, one weekend in December we find out who has the best price on pork shoulder/butt roast (Fresh & Easy has them for 98 cents a lb right now) and stock up on what you need as well as some shortening, Maseca flour, chicken broth, garlic, and dried chiles. I don't even know what kind I use. They're big, reddish brown, dried chiles that are sold in bags that usually say some thing about New Mexico on them.
Get some friends to help and warn them this is an ALL DAY project.
The first thing you want to do is don a pair of plastic gloves. You don't want that chile in any little cuts on your hand, and you sure don't want to accidentally touch your face later because you will be in horrible pain.
Take the chile and tear off the stem. Tear it down one side and open it up. Scoop out the seeds and membranes. Tear the remaining piece into 1-2 inch pieces and toss them in a very large bowl. We did this to about twenty ounces of chile.
Next, toss 25 whole, but peeled cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 18 cups water, and two teaspoons of salt into the cleaned and torn chile. Let it set for a couple of minutes, and then you'll have to puree them. You can do small batches in your blender or you could do what I do and use an immersion blender right in the bowl.
After your puree is done, pour it through a seive into your cooking pot. You'll have to mush it through with a spoon and clean it out a could of times so it will keep straining,
Next take an 8-9 lb pork butt (shoulder) and cut it up into very large cubes. Maybe 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes. Place the pork in the pot with the chile liquid. Add more water if necessary; up to 6 cups. Add two teaspoons salt. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let it simmer for an hour.
While you're waiting for that, take a bag or two of cornhusks and stick them into a sink full of water. They'll want to float so you'll have to weigh them down with something. They'll need to soak for a couple of hours to soften up and be pliable.
When the meat is done, remove the meat from the sauce and allow it to cool slightly. When it's cool you can use a couple of forks to shred it. After it's shredded, add back the sauce a bit at a time. You want the meat to be really moist and goopy, but not too thin where the sauce is going to leak out everywhere. Set your tamale meat aside.
Next, you make the "masa." Put 1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening in your mixer bowl. Add a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt and beat for about a minute. In a seperate bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of Maseca with 2 1/4 cups hot water. This will make super dry, kind of crumbly dough. Set the mixer to medium-high speed and add the dough one third at a time. After the last addition is mixed in , reduce the speed to medium low and slowly add one cup chicken broth. Let it beat for about a minute. You can check to see if the masa is ready by dropping a small ball of it into a cup of cold water. When it floats to the top it's ready.
Now take your cornhusks, about a dozen at a time, and dry them off very well. Masa does not like to stick to wet husks! After they are dry, take one and use the back of a large spoon to spread some masa on it about 1/4 inch thick. Don't spread it all the way to the ends; just do the large area in the middle. Place a couple teaspoons of meat in the center of the dough, keeping it from the edges. Roll the edges over the filling. With a strip torn from the edge of another husk, tie a knot on the end to secure the tamale. Turn it around and secure the other end in the same way.
To steam these, you can boil water in a pot with a plain vegetable steamer insert. You just have to monitor it because you can only put in a little bit of water and it evaporates quickly. If that happens and you don't catch it, the pan will start to burn and you'll have burn flavored tamales! I personally use an All Clad Multi Pot with the smaller of the two inserts. It can hold a ton of water so that I don't have to worry about it all boiling away mid-batch.
Steam the tamales for an hour and fifteen minutes. After you pull them out of the steamer and let them cool, you can put them in freezer bags and freeze for later use or to give away. They can be thawed and reheated in the microwave, but taste much better if you do it in the steamer.
This will get you about five dozen tamales.
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