Spicy Pork Tamales Recipe

Braise pork shoulder in a mixture of chilies, veggies, and annatto seeds, then nestle it in masa and steam until fluffy for the ultimate holiday recipe.
fermin-tamales-pork-recipe
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin 

Makes: about 40 tamales
Prep time: 1 hour
Total time: 4 ½ hours

INGREDIENTS

3 ½ cups|825 ml pork or chicken stock 
6 Guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
30 chile de árbol, stemmed and seeded
3 tablespoons chile piquin, stemmed and seeded
1 pound|450 grams tomatoes, quartered
3 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 cup|250 ml distilled white vinegar 
12 garlic cloves, peeled 
¼ cup|60 grams annatto seeds
½ ounce|15 grams epazote 
2 avocado leaves 
1 bay leaf 
sunflower oil, as needed 
5 pounds|2 kilograms pork shoulder, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces 
kosher salt, to taste 
2.2 pounds|1000 grams masa, preferably Masienda
1 cup|250 ml chicken stock or water 
1 cup|200 grams lard 
38 corn husks 

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high. Pour the hot stock over the dried chilies in a large, heat-proof bowl and allow them to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Place the chilies and their liquid, plus the tomatoes, onion, vinegar, garlic, annatto, epazote, avocado leaves, and bay leaf in a blender and puree until smooth. 
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high. Season the pork all over with salt and, working in batches, cook, turning as needed, until browned all over, about 20 minutes. Add the chile-vegetable puree along with all of the pork and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered, until the pork is tender, about 3 hours. Season with salt, then allow the pork to cool in the cooking liquid. 
  3. Strain the pork, reserving the cooking liquid. Add enough chicken stock or water to the cooking liquid to make 4 ½ cups|1066 ml liquid. Using two forks, shred the pork and set aside. 
  4. Make the masa: Place the masa in a large bowl. Slowly add 8 cups|1893 ml of water (or however much it says on your bag of masa—the idea here is to hydrate the masa) to the masa, stirring to incorporate evenly by hand. Knead until the water is evenly incorporated and no dry, powdery spots remain. Cover and refrigerate the masa until ready to use.
  5. Place the lard in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whip until it is a homogenous, fluffy, mixture. Slowly stream in the pork braising liquid and allow the mixture to come together. Add the masa in 3 batches, then season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 
  6. Soak the corn husks in hot water until soft, about 20 minutes. Working with one corn husk at a time, lay it on a work surface with the curved side facing up and the narrow end facing you. (If needed, use two small husks together, overlapping their long edges.) Leaving a 1 ½ -inch border along the husk’s wide, straight end, place ⅓ cup|90 grams grams of masa and ¼ cup|45 grams of the braised pork in the upper center of the husk. Use the sides of the husk to help shape the masa into a rectangle about 4 inches across. Fold the sides over the filling to cover, then fold the narrow end upward around either of the broad sides of the tamale (one end of the tamale will remain open); tie if desired. Repeat with the remaining masa and husks. Tamales can be filled and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance of steaming, or frozen. If frozen, add 20 to 25 minutes of steaming time. 
  7. Transfer to a steamer horizontally or with the open ends facing up. Steam until the masa is firm, 50 to 55 minutes. To test, remove one and open the husk: A toothpick inserted into the masa should come out mostly clean. Let the tamales rest at least 15 minutes before serving. 

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