Tamales are a popular dish from Mexico.  They can be big or small, baked or steamed, sweet or savory and can be filled with just about anything you can think of.  Making and wrapping them is a very hands-on (literally) experience that friends and family can be brought in on.  I won’t lie to you, this recipe is HOT.  I accidently rubbed my eyes after seeding the chiles with my bare hands one time.  Let’s just say I always wear latex gloves now.  If you prefer less intensity go with a milder dried pepper, or omit them altogether and use chorizo sausage.  You still get a spicy flavor AND you save yourself the time of boiling the meat for 2 hours.

Tamales can also be wrapped with banana leaves.

•  1¼ lbs. boneless pork loin or shoulder (can substitute chicken, beef, turkey or chorizo)

•  1½ oz. dried arbol chiles, seeded and stemmed

•  1 small red or white onion, finely chopped

•  3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

•  corn oil

•  ½ tbsp.  salt

•  16+ corn husks (soaked)

•  2½ lbs.  prepared masa (recipe here)

•  2 tsp. chili powder

•  1½ tsp. cumin

•  1 tsp. cayenne pepper

•  1 tsp. dried oregano

Shredding the pork with two forks.

Shredding the pork with two forks.

Place the pork, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and oregano in a large stockpot and cover with water.  Bring this to a boil then lid, reduce heat, and simmer until done, about 2 hours.  Reserve ¾ cup of the cooking liquid.

In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in a little oil for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chiles and cook for 1 minute more.

Put this chile mixture in a blender, add the reserved cooking liquid and blend until smooth.

Shred the pork removing any large pieces of fat.  Cook this meat in a little more corn oil until browned.

Add the blended chile mixture and salt to the pork and cook for around 7 more minutes.

Form a small amount of masa into a ball and press onto a corn husk.  Due to the nature of the husks, your tamales will vary in size.

Wrapping the tamales.

Wrapping the tamales.

Place 1 tbsp. of the meat mixture in the center of the masa and fold all sides to the center.  You can secure this with twine or a strip of corn husk, but I have found that if you place them in the steamer folded-side down it is not necessary.  It also makes them easier to get into when it comes time to eat!  I usually tie them just to mark which ones are which when I do more than one kind.

Arrange the tamales in a steam pot.  Cover with a wet cloth and steam for about 1 hour.

Makes around 16 tamales

Tamale cooked, unwrapped and ready to eat.

Tamale cooked, unwrapped and ready to eat.



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