This is my first month as a member of Recipes to Rival which is sort of the savory version of Daring Bakers. I enjoy the Daring Bakers but a girl can't live on cake alone.
This month's hosts were Debyi of Healthy Vegan Kitchen & Lori of Lip Smacking Goodness. They challenged us with tamales, something I've never made before & kind of always assumed were really hard to do. It turns out I was so wrong. Once you have the filling & the masa paste made they really go together quite quickly.
I used the Basic Tamale Recipe we were given for the masa paste though I used chicken stock instead of water of vegetables stock because its what I had. I also didn't bother to heat my stock because it was at room temperature, I had read that you have to be careful not to add stock that was too hot or it would cook the masa flour. I ended up making a half batch of the paste (actually I made two 1/4 batches two different days) which made about 24 tamales all together.
(Tamale with Corn & Cheese Filling)
We were allowed to pick any fillings we wanted for a tamales. I love the sweet corn tamales that I get locally at La Loma & since sweet corn is in season I knew I wanted to make those. Matt, on the other hand, likes a pork filling with a little spice. So we decided to go with two fillings.
(Tamale with pork filling)
The corn filling is super simple with the only cooking required being to cook the corn. Other than that its just some chopping & you are ready to start filling.
Corn & Cheese Tamale Filling
1 c corn kernels (I cooked one large ear of corn & then cut the kernels off it)
1/3 c onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1 1/2 c grated Monterey Jack
2 T heavy cream
Mix everything together. Use right away or refrigerate for 1 day.
Makes enough for 12 tamales
The red chile & shredded pork filling took a little more time because the pork needs to braise for about an hour & a half. The red chile sauce was so fragrant & tasty.
Red Chile & Shredded Pork Tamale Filling
adapted from azcentral.com
Red Chile Sauce
2 1/2 oz whole dried ancho chiles
boiling water to cover chiles
1/2 t ground oregano
1 T onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 c chicken broth
1/2 T vegetable oil
1 t flour
1/4 t salt
Remove the stems & seeds from the dried chiles while rinsing them under cold water. Place the chiles on a skillet that has been preheated over medium-high heat. Toast the chiles for about a minute until they are aromatic. Place them in a bowl & cover them with boiling water & soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the chiles setting aside the liquid for later use.
Place the chiles, oregano, garlic clove, onion & stock in a blender, process until smooth. Add more liquid if its too thick.
Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour & stir constantly until golden. Add the chile paste & salt then reduce the heat to low. Stir often & cook for about 10 minutes.
1 T olive oil
1 - 1 1/4 lb boneless pork butt (we actually used country style pork ribs & they worked perfectly)
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 bay leaves
In a large pan with a lid heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the meat & sear on all sides.
Add the water used to soak the chiles for the sauce. Add more water if needed until the meat is almost but not quite covered. Add the whole garlic clove, bay leaves & peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & cover. Allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is extremely tender & can be easily shredded.
Allow the meat to cool & shred it with your hands or a fork. Mix in as much chile sauce as you'd like. We didn't want the filling too runny so we used about half the sauce in the meat.
I added another 1/4 cup of the sauce to the masa paste when I was making the pork tamales & it was fabulous.
(Tamales with red chile sauce in the masa paste)
Fills about 12 - 15 tamales
Making the Tamales
Before you can start making the tamales you have to soak your corn husks. We soaked ours in hot water for about 1/2 hour. Then we rinsed them to make sure there was no corn silk left. We kept them in a pan of warm water while we worked.
(I found a pan lid helped keep the husks in the water while they soaked)
Putting together the tamales wasn't that hard once we got the hang of it. Using a knife or your fingers (my preferred method) you spread some masa paste on the the corn husk starting on the wide edge. We spread it about 2/3 down the length of the husk & left about an inch on the edge. Matt did this right in the palm of his hand, I found it easier to do on the counter. Then we added filling down the center of the masa paste. Finally the whole thing was rolled from the side with the masa to the inch that was left empty & the bottom was folded up over the seam.
We steamed our tamales vertically but putting them in a steamer basket inside a large pasta pot. I put a ball of tin foil in the center to help them stand up since they didn't quite fill the basket. We let them steam for about 45 minutes, refilling the water about halfway through. Then we had finished tamales for dinner.
(This pot wasn't tall enough & I ended up switching to a bigger pasta pot)
They turned out pretty good & the batch I made the second day was better. I think I was going a little heavy on the masa & a little light on the fillings for the first batch. Matt really liked them with some green salsa on top & I like them just plain.
We freeze them in the corn husks in packages of two. When we want to eat them we just open the bag for a vent & then microwave them on high for 3 minutes. They come out perfectly steamed & ready to eat.
I think both Matt & I are really happy we got to try our hand at making these. We have a lot of corn husks & masa flour left so I'm sure we'll be doing this again.