I was put off making tamales after hearing stories of how much work they were. When I finally started making them, I realized that most of that critique was from people who make 100+ at a time. When made in smaller batches tamales are not nearly as intimidating.
Additionally, I do the pork a day ahead. Breaking the process into two days makes this very doable. Most of the time is not active cooking.
Good corn husks make a huge difference in the outcome of your tamales. These can be found in Mexican and some international markets. The Badia brand in most groceries stores will work in a pinch, but they tend to be small and very dry.
Soak your husks in warm water about an hour before you are ready to use.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen.
2 lbs pork shoulder or butt (you only need a couple of pounds for the recipe, but most cuts are around 7 to 10 lbs. This recipe will accommodate up to 8 lbs of pork).
1 large yellow onion
1 head of garlic
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 c chicken stock
About 1/4 c salt
- – – – – – –
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
12 oz diced green chilies (canned are fine)
1 T salt
2 T dried oregano
1 T cumin
1 T sweet paprika
6 oz tomato paste
2 T white wine vinegar
chicken stock, as necessary
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and slice the onion. Place the onion on the bottom of the pot in which you are going to roast the meat. Pour in the chicken stock and toss in a couple of sprigs of thyme and the bay leaves.
Score the fat cap on the pork butt or shoulder. Rub salt all over the meat. Peel each clove of garlic. Pierce the pork and insert the garlic cloves (from the entire head) throughout the pork. Place the pork on top of the onions. Tuck the thyme into the pork, in the score marks.
Roast the pork until tender and falling off the bone. A meat thermometer should read 180 degrees. Remove the pork and allow to cool. When cool, use two forks to shred the meat.
8 cups instant masa harina
1/2 c lard (you can substitute Crisco shortening if lard isn’t available in your store)
32 oz chicken stock
3 T dried Mexican oregano
1 T ground cumin
1 T sweet paprika
1 T salt
Ground black pepper
In a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a wooden spoon if doing by hand) place the masa and spices. Mix well. Add about half of the chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Add 2 T lard and mix well. Alternate between stock and lard, mixing the dough to get the right texture.
The dough should be soft but not sticky. You should be able to spread it with an off-set spatula without having it cling to the spatula. Some people slap the dough to test it. If it does not stick to your hand when you slap it, you have the right texture.
Preparing the Tamales:
Soak your husks in warm water for about an hour before use.
In the meantime, dice the onion and two cloves of garlic. Heat about a tablespoon of lard in a large skillet. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the pork and saute for about two minutes. Add a small amount of chicken stock if the pan is dry. Add 1 tsp salt, 2 T dried oregano, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Add 6 oz tomato paste, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and about 3/4 cup of chicken stock. Saute until most of the liquid is cooked off.
Remove your husks from their water bath and drain.
Take one husk, preferably a cracked on, and tear off long strips about a quarter inch wide following the natural grain of the husk. Set these strips aside.
Place a husk on the work surface with the larger end toward you. Smear 1/4 to 1/3 cup of masa mix on the husk in a rectangle, leaving at least two inches on the right side and an inch on the top and bottom. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of filling in a vertical line of the filling. Use the husk to roll the dough onto itself. Fold the husk like a burrito or eggroll.
When the tamale has been rolled, use one of the thin strands of husk to tie the tamale closed. Filled the rest of the husks.
Fill the bottom inch of a stock pot with stock or water. Place a steamer in the pot. Stack the tamales vertically around the pot. If there are not enough tamales to fill the pot, crumple up a bit of aluminum foil into a ball and use that to hold the tamales in place. Cover with a tight fitting lid.
Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a rapid simmer. Steam the tamales for about an hour. Keep an eye on the water level and fill as needed. If you keep a kettle on the stove and the water hot, you will cook the tamales more evenly than adding cold water.
The tamales are done when the dough pulls away easily from the husks.
These can be cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Then freeze for up to three months.