Red Chile Pork Tamales made with Fresh Masa
We’ve made this recipe quite a few times. It comes from Tamales 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales. A wonderful cookbook that’s incredibly thorough. We’ve always made our tamales with store bought masa harina. We’ve recently begun making fresh masa for our corn tortillas and figured if tortillas are better with fresh masa (they are) than the same must hold true for tamales. Here’s the thing. Masa harina is relatively flavorless. It’s easy to work with and it’s readily available, but it really doesn’t taste like corn. Fresh masa has a fragrant smell and taste of fresh corn. It’s an incredible difference in flavor. I started with 3 lbs. of raw corn which made the 5 lbs. of fresh masa for this recipe. The recipe calls for lard. I use leftover lard from making carnitas, but store-bought lard is fine.
Making Tamales is a relatively involved endeavour. You wouldn’t just whip up a few. If you’re going to make tamales, you might as well make lots. This recipe makes 4-5 dozen tamales. It’s not hard, it just takes time. It is a treat though. They freeze well. They’re never quite as good as when they just finish steaming, but still tasty.
Red Chile Pork Tamales Recipe
1-2 packages of dried corn husks
2, 14 ounce cans of sliced, pitted olives (optional)
Fresh Masa Dough
1 2/3 cups butter
6 Tbsp lard
5 lbs. fresh masa
2-3 cups pork stock (chicken will do, but I use the stock from the pork)
2 Tbsp salt
5 lbs. pork butt
1 white onion
3 cloves garlic
3 tspn salt
Red Chili Sauce
10 ancho chiles
4 California chiles
4 onions, quartered
8 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 tspn ground cumin
2 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
Red Chile Sauce
Seed and rinse the chiles. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water and cover. Let the chiles soak for 30 minutes. Boil the onions quarters for 25 minutes. Reserve 1 cups of the chile soaking liquid. Remove the chiles and add along with the boiled onions and garlic to a blender or food processor and blend.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the ground cumin and cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add sauce to pan (careful it will boil quickly and spit sauce everywhere) Simmer for 3 minutes. Add stock, reserved chile liquid, tomatoes, salt and sugar and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. You can make this beforehand. It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 day. Or you can freeze for up to 2 months
Place the pork, onions, and garlic in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add salt and simmer another 30 minutes to 1 hour until tender. Remove pork from water and set aside to cool. Remove and discard onions and garlic. Let stock cool enough to refrigerate. Remove hardened white lard and reserve to use in dough. Reserve remaining stock to use as stock for dough. Once the pork is cool, cut into 1 inch cubes.
Unless you have an industrial sized mixer, you’ll need to do this in two batches. Add half the butter and lard to a mixing bowl and whip on high speed until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes. Lower the speed and gradually add 1/2 the masa, 1/2 the stock, and half the salt. Once it’s fully combined, return the mixer to high and whip for 3-5 minutes until you get a light fluffy dough. Add a little extra stock if need be. Remove to a large bowl and repeat with second half of the ingredients.
Separate and soak corn husks in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Place a corn husk flat with the large end away from you. Spread about 1/3 cup masa on the husk. You want to leave about 1/2 -1 inch open at the edges of the husk (see image below). Place 2-3 cubes of pork in the center and cover with 2 Tbsp of sauce and a few olives. Fold the edge of the husk in from the right, then overlap from the left. Pull the bottom up to meet the top of the husk. Secure with kitchen twine or if you want to be fancy, use a thin strip of corn husk. Place open end up in a pot. Fit as many tamales in as you can. Cover the top of the tamales with a few corn husks. Cover and steam for 1 hr. Pull a tamale and check to see if the corn husk pulls cleanly away from the dough. If it sticks, steam for an additional 10-15 minutes and check again.
I like to serve the tamales with a sprinkle of grated Mexican cheese. Pour a few Tbsp of warmed sauce over the tamale. Serve with a few slices of avocado, sprinkle with queso fresco, maybe some chipolte sour cream, and a few bits of chopped cilantro. Awesome.
To reheat tamales, place in a small ziplock bag and microwave for 1-2 minutes.