Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tamales with Guajillo Chili Salsa & Carnitas

As I was suffering through my food blogging slump, my sister suggested that I make tamales. I had wanted to make tamales in the past, but was bogged down by the idea of sourcing the ingredients, namely the corn husks. Plus, I had enough ideas that it didn't seem worth the hassle. But, because I was running low on inspiration these days, I bit the bullet and found some corn husks online and masa harina para tamales at a new grocery store nearby (which is humongous and frankly too intimidating for weekly grocery shopping but certainly worth the trip for sourcing the ingredients that my local market doesn't have).

Anyway, the results were fabulous and I'm so glad I went through the effort. I'm excited to make my way through the few we have leftover. I'm also doubly glad that I have some corn husks leftover to make another batch once I've finished gobbling my way through the current one.
Ingredients [yields 2 to 3 dozen tamales]:
tamale dough
2 to 3 dozen corn husks, soaked in lukewarm water for 2 hours
2½ cups masa harina para tamales
2 cups + 1 cup chicken stock (or juices from carnitas)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup lard or shortening
1 tablespoon baking powder

fillings
4 poblano peppers
1 lb. carnitas (about 3 cups shredded)
1 cup guajillo chili salsa
2 cups grated cotija cheese

I have a Mexican coworker whose wife is an amazing cook. She makes fresh masa herself with the corn kernels and lye and a grinder. I'm not quite that ambitious so I used dried masa and reconstituted it with the leftover juices from making carnitas.

Add the masa harina to a bowl with salt and pepper and stir. Slowly pour in the stock (or carnitas juices), stirring constantly to evenly incorporate the liquid. The end result should be a crumbly dough. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat together the lard and baking powder until light and fluffy. The lard should essentially double in volume. Technically, you could do this by hand, but it would take a lot of time and energy.
Add in about a quarter to a third of the masa mixture and beat until incorporated. Then, drizzle in about a quarter to a third of the stock and beat until incorporated. Continue alternating ingredients until everything is incorporated.
Continue to beat the heck out of the dough until it's light and fluffy and has a texture similar to sour cream or a gritty buttercream frosting. It should be like a paste, but runny enough to fall off of the beaters. Set the dough aside while you work on the fillings.
Mix together the carnitas and some of the red sauce. That's filling ingredient number one.
Char some poblano peppers until the skins are blistered, remove the skins and stems and seeds, and cut them into strips. That's filling ingredient number two.
Lastly, grate some cotija cheese. That's filling ingredient number three.
To assemble the tamales, grab a corn husk and spread a decent amount of masa onto the bottom two-thirds of the husk. I like to keep the masa layer about ¼-inch thick. I don't like it to be overwhelming. Then, lay on some of the carnitas, a strip of poblano, and a sprinkle of cheese. Fold over one side, fold over the second side, flip up the bottom, and that's it.
After a while, I started making a few at a time, kind of like a one person assembly line.
This step is optional, but if you have extra corn husks, rip them into strips and use the strips like a piece of ribbon to secure the tamales.
Boil a kettle of water. To cook the tamales, grab a tall stock pot, drop in a steamer basket, and place the tamales in so they're all standing up. Pour in some boiling water, just to the bottom of the steamer, pop on the lid, and allow the tamales to steam for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until they're cooked through completely. Cook all of the tamales; leftovers can be frozen. Frozen leftovers should be defrosted overnight and steamed again to reheat. Leftovers microwave nicely too.
To go alongside the tamales, I made some black beans, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, and platanos maduros.
I also made a batch of frozen strawberry margaritas. I'll be posting a recipe for that eventually. Afterall, it is the quintessential summer drink for enjoying with a delicious Mexican feast, right?
The tamales were a huge hit. The masa turned out super delicious and super flavorful, the carnitas were as tender as ever, the poblano added a nice subtle heat, and the cotija cheese added a lovely saltiness.
We had a plate on the side to place our discarded corn husks on. I topped my tamales with a little red sauce, a little salsa verde, some pico de gallo, and a little crumbled queso fresco. It was perfect.
Here's the recipe page:

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