Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Authentic Tamales

I've been wanting to make tamales for quite awhile now and after researching through dozens of recipes, I combined a few and was very pleased with the end result.  I do have a few tips to share that are crucial to making the perfect tamales.

I learned the hard way that the key to making good tamales is to spread the masa or dough very thinly on the husk. I find it to be highly disappointing when tamales have too much steamed masa surrounding them and with hardly any filling inside.  The filling should most definitely dominate the masa.

The more the merrier when it comes to making tamales. They are certainly labor intensive, but very rewarding and therapeutic to prepare.  
Plan on at least two days for preperations.  This is a great family project for a rainy weekend. 

You can mix the beef and pork for the tamales, but if you’re a purist like me, go with one or the other.  My favorite tamales are made with pork. 

With a few minor kinks to iron out, my tamales did not disappoint.  The filling especially can not get any better.  I made sure to use enough chili powder for the masa to add a nice kick...definitely recommended.  I made about 30 tamales, half of which we steamed and the other half we froze, which will make for an easy snack or dinner.  I serve my tamales with Sriracha and sour cream.  Mucho delicioso!!

Day 1:

3 lbs pork/beef butt or shoulder
1 - 48 oz chicken broth for pork, or use beef broth for beef tamales
1 - 26 oz chicken cooking stock for pork, or use beef stock for beef tamales
1 white onion cut into chunks
4 bay leaves
8 - 12 peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp chili powder
1 package corn husks

Cook meat (pork or beef, or both in separate pots) in a large pot of broth and stock; add enough water to cover the meat.  Add onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cook low and slow for the day, 4 hours minimum. The more broth you can generate from the meat, the better.

After the meat is cooked so that it falls apart and shreds easily, remove from pot, set aside to cool; remove the bay leaves.  Puree the onion, garlic and peppercorns with the broth. Season broth mixture to taste with chili powder and salt.

Shred meat finely with two forks and store covered in refrigerator separately from broth.

Soak corn husks in water overnight.

Day 2:

Corn Husks

Shredded meat
Cooking broth
Chili powder, divided use
1 - 2 tsp cumin (optional)
Salt, to taste, divided use
2 cups of masa harina (meal)
1/2 cup of shortening or lard

Rinse and clean corn husks thoroughly. Drain well and pat dry.

Season shredded meat with chili powder, salt, and cumin (optional) to taste. As you season the meat, add a small amount of broth to moisten meat, but it should not be runny; set aside.

In a large bowl mix 2 cups of masa harina (meal), 1/2 cup of shortening or lard, 1 tsp of salt, and enough chili powder to make a pink dough. Add broth mixture a little at a time to masa and mix with your hands to get a smooth, spreadable consistency. If you run out of broth, you can use hot water or store-bought broth.

To assemble the tamales, spread masa about 1/8 inch thick on corn husk with fingers, leaving about 1/2 inch border along the sides and 2 inch border along the top and bottom of husk. Use about 2 TBSP of the seasoned, shredded meat to fill the tamale like a cigar. Fold sides until they just overlap, fold narrow end under, and place tamale folded side down. Tear thin strips of the corn husks to tie a little belt around each tamal to keep it secure.  This makes each tamale a little gift to be opened.

To cook the tamales, steam for 1 - 1/2 hours or until masa is no longer sticky.  Replenish the liquid in the steamer with the reserved cooking broth as needed while steaming.

Store the remaining tamales in your freezer. Steam frozen tamales for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

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