One of the best tamales I’ve ever tasted is from a family friend a long time ago. My kids are always boasting she makes the best Mexican dishes. I was too busy to make a living and raising my kids when we lived in the same neighborhood so I haven’t learnt to cook with her yet. Hope someday I can. I am trying to stay away from using lard in tamales for a long time because its bad reputation for health but Bill Yosses, the current White House pastry chef advised that pork fat is as bad as butter. Therefore, lard is in my tamales now but if you’re still shy from it using vegetable oil or butter is good too.
About 5-6 hours, cooking time about 1 hour, make 18 large tamales
1 package (8 oz) dried corn hush or frozen banana leaf
2 lb pork butt or shoulder,cut into 2 in. chunks, keep the fat
2-3 cups cold water to cover pork
1 tsp kosher salt
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 garlic clove, mashed
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 bay leave
1⅓ cups lard or butter
4 cups dehydrated masa flour (instant corn masa flour )
1 tsp Kosher salt if water is used
2 tsp baking powder (optional)
3⅔ to 4 cups warm water, pork broth or chicken broth (regular strength)
3 oz dried Ancho chiles, New Mexico or California chiles, seeds and stem removed
1/4 cup tomato sauce or paste or 3 fresh plum tomato (removed seed and skin,coarse chopped)
2 garlic cloves, mince or pressed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano leaves
1 tsp sugar
Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa (~1 cup)
5 medium sized tomatillos
1 serrano chile (add more for more spiciness)
A handful of cilantro, stems removed
juice of 1 1/4 lime
1/2 medium onion, chopped
A pinch of ground pepper
A pinch of sugar (optional)
salt to taste
1 large, ripe avocado
Prepare corn husk:
Soak them in warm water at least three hours or overnight. About one hour before use, rinse and drain them standing up right in a drainer. If use frozen banana, thaw them first.
Make pork and chile paste filling:
1. Wash and drain pork. Add meat into a pot with salt, onion, garlic, coriander seed, bay leaves and water enough to cover pork. Bring it to a boil, cover and simmer on medium low heat until the pork can be pulled apart easily with a fork about 1 hour. Take the meat out, drain and save the broth. Discard the solids. Shred the pork, discard the fat if preferred.
2. While waiting the pork, use a pair of scissors or spare knife, split the dried chiles. Remove and discard the seeds and stem. Submerge in boiling water *(See note below). Cover and let it stand for 1 hour or at least 30 minutes. Take the chiles out, place on a cutting board and use a knife or spoon to scrap the pulp out of the skin. Discard the skin. In a blender, blend the chiles pulp with all ingredients of chile sauce and 1/2 cup of pork broth to moisten. Blend until smooth. Pour into a pan, add pork and and 1/2 cup reserved pork stock. Bring them to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce just enough to keep the pork moist but not watery. Remove from heat. Let it cool down.
Do not boil the chiles (boil water first and then use it to steep the chiles). And do not blend the chiles with their skin. Doing either of the above will make the sauce bitter.
One extra step add more flavor in filling is heating 1 Tbs vegetable oil, and add 1 finely minced garlic and shallot. Stir until fragrant; then add pork and chile sauce.
Make tamales dough:
2. Whip 1⅓ cups lard or butter until fluffy (about 3-5 mins.). If you’re using baking powder, then in a separate bowl, blend in 4 cups corn flour,1 tsp kosher salt, and the baking powder before adding it to the whipped lard or butter. If you are leaving out the baking powder, you can add the flour and salt directly to the whipped lard or butter. Measure the remaining pork broth and add warm water or chicken broth to make 3⅔ cups liquid (do not add salt if use chicken broth). Then add to flour. Mix until the dough hold together well, add 1/3 cup liquid if needed. The dough should be soft and spreadable but hold it shape in a spoon. Oop I can not make it floating in the water but the dough still soft. Maybe beating the dough more next time?
For each small tamale: select a large, pliable husk. Lay it flat on a flat surface(cutting board, plate) with the pointy tip away from you. Spread about 2 Tbs of the dough at the center of the husk and form a 1/4 in. thick rectangle which flush to one side of the husk, and 1 in. from the bottom. If husk is not wide enough, put another behind the first. Put about 2 Tbs filling in center of the dough. Fold husk so the filing enclosed and dough’s edges meet. Wrap the plain part of husk over the tamale. Fold in bottom and tip over tamale body. Place seam side down. Continue until all are prepare. Tamale can be fold with the bottom open just to make sure cover with extra husk and steam in up right position.
For each large tamale: spread 1/3 cup masa dough into 5×6 in. ore 5x7in. rectangle on 1 or 2 large corn husks flush to one side and the bottom. Put slightly less than 1/4 cup filling in the center . Then folding to enclose the filling and dough edges meet. Use extra hush to cover the opened end, and folding over tamale same like the first layer. Tie at the center to hold husk together.
Steam tamales: stack tamales in a steamer, arrange loosely so hot steam can circulate well. I like to let them leaning lightly against the steamer side in standing up right position or laying on the sides. Cover with extra husk for more flavor. Add about 1 in. boiling water but do not let water touch tamale-raise the rack if needed. Cover and adjust the heat to keep a gentle and steady boil about 1 hour until tamales are cooked through-firm, opaque color, and do not stick to the husk. Serve hot or warm with Salsa, sour cream.
Make Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa:
1. Peel the tomatillos and discard the husk, wash them.
2. Bring the serrano chiles and tomatillos to a boil in a small pot with enough water to cover them. Remove from heat and let them steep until they’re soft. Will take about 30 minutes.
3. Then place the chiles and tomatillos along with the rest of the ingredients for the salsa (cilantro, lime juice, onion, salt, and pepper) in a blender and blend until liquefied. Use the reserved cooking water to help blending as needed.
4. Add the avocado at the end and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Update on the floating test of the dough:
The fat was beaten for longer at medium high speed and only pork stock was used in the second try and the dough was floating.