Tamales- A Christmas Tradition

Making tamales for Christmas has been a tradition in our family for years.  However, the recipe and techniques have continued to improve every year. This year I added cheese to the tamales.  Tamales are a labor intensive project, hence, I only do it once a year.  I recommend doing it over 2 days- the first day preparing the meat and the second day assembling the tamales.

You will need:

Corn husks (2 packages)

2 lbs pork roast

1 can 14 oz stewed diced tomatoes

1 whole white onion diced medium size chunks

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 bag dried California Chilies (about 4 dried chilies)

1/4 cup +  2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups Lard (manteca- found in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store, usually near the masa flour)

5 cups Masa flour mix for tamales

4 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

String cheese (optional) or other cheese

cooking twine

steamer basket

large steaming/ stock pot

Let’s Get Started!

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Tamale Meat Recipe

2 lbs pork roast

1 can 14 oz stewed diced tomatoes

1 whole white onion diced medium size chunks

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 bag dried California Chilies (about 4 dried chilies)

1/4 cup +  2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions for meat:

You can either use a crock-pot for this recipe or roast slowly in the oven.  If you are using an oven, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare your pan (or crock-pot insert) by spraying with cooking spray.  You will want to start by preparing the chilies.  Heat a heavy skillet (I recommend a cast iron skillet) on medium low heat. Moving onto the dried chilies, take them out of the bag, pop the stem off of the chili and pick out all of the seeds.  You will be left with just the skins.  Once all the chilies are cleaned of seeds and stems, set them aside.  In a  poor 2 tablespoons cooking oil into a preheated pan (medium heat).  Once the oil is hot, put the dried chilies into the oil.  With a wooden spoon gently move the chilies around the oil to prevent burning.  Once the chilies have darkened, remove them from the pan and place into a blender.  To the blender add 1/4 cup cooking oil. Blend the chilies and oil until it creates a creamy paste (you should be able to pour it out, if not add a tiny bit of oil at a time until the consistency is that of a thicker salad dressing- like ranch dressing). Set aside.

Trim meat and cut up into 1 to 2 inch chunks (whatever size you choose to do, make it consistent).  In your pan, add all the onions to the bottom evenly.  Now add the meat as an even layer over the onions.

In another bowl, mix tomatoes, cumin and garlic powder.  Mix in the chili/oil mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Pour this mixture over the meat and onions.

In crock-pot turn on high for 3 hours and then turn down to low for another 4-5 hours.  Cook on low until the meat falls apart easily.

If using the oven, cook at 325 for 5-6 hours, until the meat falls apart in the pan.

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Preparing the husks:

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In a large pan, place the dried corn husks and cover with very hot water.  If needed place a heavy pot on top to keep them submerged while preparing the other ingredients.  You want the husks to be pliable for easier folding.

Making Masa

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Gather the ingredients:

2 cups Lard (manteca- found in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store, usually near the masa flour)

5 cups Masa flour mix for tamales

4 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients- masa flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixer bowl add the lard and whip on high until light and fluffy. Once very fluffy, slowly alternate adding the dry ingredients and chicken broth ( 1 cup at a time) while continuing to mix on a low/medium speed, just until well combined.

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Preparing for the assembly:

The key here is to have everything ready in an assembly line (and hopefully a couple extra pairs of hands to get it done faster).

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Here we have:

  1. Corn husks that have been pre-soaked and bloated dry
  2. Masa that we just made
  3. The meat
  4. string cheese cut into 4 pieces per package (optional)
  5. cookie scoops (for consistent measurements)
  6. plastic wrap to protect the granite from the red meat juice
  7. knives for spreading the masa on the husks
  8. cooking twine (not pictured) for tying tamale bundles (which helps to keep them upright in the pot)
  9. lastly the large pot, prepared with a steamer basket at the bottom and water just to the top of the basket

Assemble:

Starting with a corn husk, spread 2 small scoops of masa with your spreading knife:

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Now add a couple of scoops of meat and cheese (if using)

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Now fold- side, bottom, side (like a burrito)

Once you have 4 to six assembled, bundle them with the cooking twine:

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Once your pan is full, the water level will most likely have risen and that is just fine.

Move the full tamale pot to the stove and cover with a lid, or heavy foil, allowing a little gap for a little steam to escape.  Turn on high, until the water starts to boil.  Once boiling reduce to a simmer and continue to cook until the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the husks.  Keep an eye on the pan and add water as needed.  The steaming process varies in time, depending on how dense the tamales are in the pot and how large the pot is.  In general I would say about 45- 60 minutes for steaming.

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To serve, you can eat the tamales right out of the husk, or top with some warm enchilada sauce and sour cream.  Yummy!

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