Did you know tamales are a traditional Tex-Mex Christmas dish? Kid you not. They are a bit labor-intensive– but it’s Christmas season! Spend some time in the kitchen with someone you love making a batch of tamales!
To the recipe…
five six seven parts to this recipe. 1) Mr. Big Food’s introduction; 2) sweet chili (filling) recipe; 3) corn husk preparation; 4) tamale dough recipe; and 5) assembly and steaming instructions; 6) tamale sauce recipe; 7) serving instructions. [I’ve added a few comments along the way.]
As with many recipes in the Big Food Manual and Survivalist Flourishing Guide, Mr. Big Food begins this with a short commentary:
I developed these from a lot of inspirations. The Sweet Chili is derived from John’s Chili (in this section) with inspiration from eating Chili Rellanos from Matt’s Rancho Martinez restaurant in East Dallas. The sauce comes from a tamale sauce from Stephen Pyles. These are good with or without the sauce. See the Making Tamales suggestions earlier in this section if you’re still a novice at this. [I will post this separately.] Make your own chili powder for extra fun and taste.
JOHN’S PORK TAMALES
Prepare Sweet Chili.
1 C water
1 Tbsp sugar
½ C beef consommé
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
3 ½ Tbsp Pasilla (or any mild) chili powder (preferably Pure)
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp mole (paste or powder)
1 tsp garlic powder
¾ – 1 C raisins
3 lbs pork butt, cut into small cubes
More Pasilla chili powder
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 big yellow onion, chopped fine
5-6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 small can chopped green chilies
10 oz tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
1 Tbsp masa harina [a finely ground corn flour available in the Mexican section of your market]
2 Tbsp water
Combine 1 cup water, sugar, consommé, paprika, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, mole, garlic powder, and raisins in large stockpot over medium heat and stir until blended. Let mixture come to bubbling, stirring occasionally, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring once in awhile. Meanwhile, cover cubed pork with chili powder. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet until hot and fry pork in batches, pouring off excess pot liquor. Add cubed pork to stockpot when browned. Saute onions and garlic in pot liquor until soft. Add to stockpot. Add chopped chilies and tomato sauce to stock pot, mixing well. Bring to bubbling and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir masa into 2 Tbsp water and stir into chili. (If chili is too liquid, you can thicken with more masa. Keep the 1-2 ration of masa to water constant.) Let chili cool until cool enough to handle.
Corn husks, about 60, cleaned if necessary, silks removed [These are usually either in the Mexican section of your market, or in the produce section.]
Immerse corn husks in warm water and soak for at least one hour before preparing tamales. [Corn husks float so we soak in a big pot or bowl with a plate on top of the husks.] Make tamale dough.
4 C masa harina
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 ½ – 3 C water, lukewarm
½ tsp poultry seasoning
1 1/3 C lard
Combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Work in water to dry ingredients with fingers to make a soft dough. Add poultry seasoning. Beat lard until fluffy. Fold lard into masa dough. The dough should be spongy. (See Making Tamales.)
ASSEMBLING AND STEAMING TAMALES
Remove clean, big corn husk from water. Spread masa dough on husk thinly, nearly to top, bottom, and sides. Add chili to middle of husk, enough to comfortably fold tamales so that sides of dough can contact. Use stripes of less desirable corn husks to tied up each end. Use until masa, chili, or corn husks are used up. (See Making Tamales.)
Stack tamales in a steamer pot. Fill bottom of steamer with as much water as possible without boiling water making contact with tamales at bottom of steamer. Bring water to boil, cover tamales with a clean towel (to absorb moisture), cover steamer pot, and steam for about 2 hours, checking water as necessary. Tamales are done when dough pulls away from husks easily.
[Tip: Though we own real steamers, we use a sort of make-shift steamer for tamales. It’s an old no-longer-usable-as-a-fry-pan pan (about 14″ diameter and 3″ deep) on top of which we put a single layer bamboo steamer rack (similarly sized, in fact, it fits perfectly). We find that keeping the tamales horizontal– as they laid when filled– rather than vertical allows for more even cooking. Of course, you could order a regulation tamale steamer if you wish.]
While tamales are steaming, prepare Tamale Sauce.
TAMALE SAUCE (AFTER STEPHEN PYLES)
2 C rich chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 C whipping cream
4 Tbsp diced red pepper
4 Tbsp diced yellow or green pepper
4 Tbsp diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine
Bring chicken stock to boil in a heavy saucepan. Add cream, peppers, onion, and garlic and boil until reduced by half, stirring regularly to keep cream from overflowing sides. Add cilantro, remove from heat, and cover tightly until tamales are done steaming.
To serve, set tamales on plate, cut open or remove corn husk, and cut tamales in half lengthwise. Top with sauce.