Years ago I had a recipe for Red Chile Tamales. The first time I made them they were really good. The second time they were dry and tasteless, made all the more dire as I served them at a big party. Fast forward three years. I pass a Mexican Market every time I go to town and a craving for tamales had set in. I decided to buy the ingredients and create my own tamale recipe. That was two days ago and I finally finished and served them tonight. I do believe they were the best tamales I have ever eaten. I told Michael I feel like an old Mexican woman who makes tamales at home and sells them from her front door. First, the picture. The directions will follow.
3 - 4 pound pork shoulder roast
1 package dried Chile California pods
1 package dried Tamale Mix ( Guatemala Mix)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 TBS ground cumin
¼ cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste
4 pounds prepared Masa
1 package dried corn husks
Place the pork roast in a covered dutch oven with 1 inch of water. I had to cut mine in half to fit. Roast for 3.5 hours in a 300 degree oven or until the meat shreds easily.
Allow the meat to cool to room temperature then shred the meat removing the bones and fat.
While the meat is roasting prepare the sauce. Empty the contents of both seasoning packets into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on stovetop then reduce the heat to low for ten minutes. Turn the heat off and place a heavy object in the pan to hold the chiles underwater. I used a small plate topped with a smaller pan of water for added weight.
Allow the chiles to rehydrate until the water cools to room temperature. Remove the chile pods from the pan. I discarded the cooking water and all the additional spices including the juniper berries, sesame seeds, pepitos, bay leaves, etc. Pull the stems from the chiles and slice open to remove most of the seeds. Place all of the pods into a blender. Add water starting with a half cup and pulse, increasing until the sauce is the consistency of watery tomato sauce.
Add the pureed chiles to a medium saucepan and add the brown sugar, butter, salt and pepper and ground cumin. Cook over low heat until sauce thickens. You should taste the sauce during the process and add little more of this and that until it tastes right to you. Definitely adequately salt the sauce. The taste of the sauce is somewhat bitter, that is why I added the brown sugar.
Pour the sauce over the shredded pork and mix well.
At this point I refrigerated the meat until the next day when I made and served the tamales. You can make them immediately as well, it just got late in the day for me.
I had the masa prepared for me at the Mexican market. I got a four pound bag for $4.00 and it was prepared while I waited. It smelled wonderful. I picked up my dried corn husks at the same time.
TO PREPARE THE TAMALES:
Bring the meat and masa to room temperature if they have been refrigerated. In the meantime, soak the corn husks in a large vessel of warm water for at least 30 minutes, more if you have time. They will be much easier to handle.
Remove a corn husk from the water and shake dry. With wet fingers place some masa onto the middle of a corn husk. Pick the widest ones you have or put two smaller ones together overlapping a least and inch and a half. With your fingers, spread the masa in a thin layer to within ½ inch of the top of the corn husk leavening at least and inch on each side. Leave two inches at the bottom for turning over and tying. Place a generous spoonful of pork down the center of the masa leaving room on all sides. Gently fold the corn husk around the tamale and then fold the bottom up. Tear a strip of wet corn husk and tie it around the bottom of the tamale to secure it. Continue until you run out of masa or filling.
Cook the tamales by standing them upright in a steamer or large pot with a steamer basket. Add an inch of water but make sure the tamales are not in contact with the water. I used a large electric steamer but I have steamed them in a pot on the stove as well. Which ever way you go, carefully monitor the water level during the entire cooking time adding more as you go. DO NOT LET THE STEAMER OR POT GO DRY! Steam the tamales for 1 ½ hours. Serve immediately with sour cream and a little of your favorite hot sauce if you like.
TIP: If you are not planning to eat all the tamales at one sitting, freeze them without steaming. They are much better thawed out and then steamed. Reheat any leftover steamed tamales by briefly steaming again. You can use the microwave for re-heating but I do not recommend it. The masa dries out and the taste is not as good.