What’s the easiest way to make a big batch of tamales? Throw a party so you’ll have lots of helping hands! This recipe comes to us from Claudette Zepeda, a San Diego chef known for her fearless culinary style and bold approach to regional Mexican cuisine. She says the tamales freeze well, so you can enjoy them for weeks to come.
Chile Colorado Tamales
For the chile colorado:
- 6 quarts (6 l) vegetable or beef stock
- 5 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 4 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tbs. dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 3 lb. (1.5 kg) pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, meat cut into 2-inch (5-cm) cubes
- Avocado, grapeseed or vegetable oil for browning
- 2 avocado leaves (optional)
- 1 hoja santa leaf (optional)
For the tamal:
- 5 lb. (2.5 kg) fresh masa or 4.4 lb. (2.2 kg) masa harina
- 2 lb. (1 kg) lard or vegetable shortening, melted
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- Kosher salt
- 11 cups (2.75 l) chile colorado cooking liquid
- 4 lb. (2 kg) dried corn husks or fresh banana leaves
To make the adobo, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) of the stock to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the chiles and soak until soft. Strain (reserve soaking liquid )and transfer the chiles to a blender. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cumin and paprika and blend until smooth, adding as much of the soaking liquid as needed to achieve a smoothie-like texture. Strain the adobo to remove the chile skins, then season to taste with salt.
Preheat an oven to 320°F (160°C).
To make the chile colorado, in a large, shallow bowl, stir together the cornstarch, 2 Tbs. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Dust the pork cubes with the cornstarch mixture.
In a large, oven-safe deep pan, warm some oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches as needed, sear the pork until golden brown. Return all of the pork to the pan, add the adobo, the remaining stock, and the avocado leaves and hoja santa leaf (if using). Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and roast until the pork is fork-tender, about 4 hours.
Transfer the pork to a large bowl, reserving the cooking liquid in the pan. Discard the leaves, if using. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, then add enough cooking liquid to cover the pork. Reserve 11 cups (2.75 l) of the remaining liquid for the masa.
To make the masa, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the masa, lard, baking powder and salt, to taste. Whip on medium-low speed until fluffy, 5 to 8 minutes, adding the cooking liquid 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) at a time. The mixture should be spreadable, not soupy, with a texture similar to polenta. Taste the masa and adjust the seasoning with salt as needed.
Fill a large bowl with boiling water and soak the corn husks until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. When the water is cool enough to touch, remove the husks and squeeze out the excess water. Place on paper towel–lined baking sheets. If using banana leaves, drag them over a gas flame to soften, then trim them.
Using a 4-oz. (125-ml) ice cream scoop, scoop a portion of the masa into a husk. Using an offset spatula, spread the masa across the square part of the husk so it is 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick, leaving an uncovered border on both sides. Fill the center with 4 oz. (125 g) of the chile colorado, adding an additional spoonful of the liquid over the meat. Fold one edge of the husk over the other to form a slender tamale. The overlapping masa will help to keep the tamale together. Next, fold the pointed husk over the tamale and lay it upright, with the seam up. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, reserving a few unfilled husks to use when steaming.
To steam the tamales, set a steam rack in a large pot and add enough water to reach the rack. Place 3 pennies in the pot (as the tamales steam, the pennies will rattle to alert you when the water is running out). Cover the rack with some of the reserved husks; this will help to prevent excess evaporation of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the tamales upright, seam side up, in a circular pattern, layering additional husks between each layer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and steam the tamales for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove a tamale from the pot and let it cool slightly, then check to see if the masa is cooked through. When the tamales are done, remove the pot from the heat and let the tamales cool to room temperature, then remove them with tongs.
The tamales can be wrapped individually in parchment paper and frozen. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator, then steam as directed or fry in thin layer of olive oil to reheat. Makes 30 to 40 tamales.
Recipe courtesy of Claudette Zepeda, Chef, VAGA, San Diego.