Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Michelle Rodarte/Zarela Martinez: Tamales Mexicanos de Puerco en Chile Colorado y Pollo en Chile Verde (Mexican Tamales with Red Chile Pork and Green Chile Chicken)

The holidays are a very busy time of year.  There are presents to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, and parties to attend.  But being the gastro-sadist that I am, what did I decide to do?  Cook up a batch of tamales that normally involves an entire Mexican family.  And it literally took all day.  I do not recommend this method.  I do recommend that you find all of your friends and family and make them help you.  Because these tamales are fantastic.  I keep wavering back and forth on which is better: chicken or pork.  But honestly?  It's more of a how-am-I-feeling-that-day thing.  Am I feeling spicy?  Am I feeling cheesy?  Just make both and then you're covered.

Note:  It seems like a lot of jalapeños in the sauce for the chicken.  I know.  I blanched a bit, too, and I'm a Texan.  Trust me that it's needed to spice up not only the chicken, but the masa that the whole gets wrapped in.  Pull out some of the ribs and seeds if you're still nervous.

Tamales Mexicanos de Puerco en Chile Colorado y Pollo en Chile Verde (Mexican Tamales with Red Chile Pork and Green Chile Chicken)
Adapted from Michelle Rodarte, Central Market Cooking School, and Food from My Heart by Zarela Martinez

Red Chile Pork:
2½ pounds boneless pork butt OR 3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 whole head garlic, unpeeled, cut crosswise in half
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces ancho, New Mexico, or guajillo chiles, or a combination
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon skinless roasted peanuts
¼ teaspoon toasted anise seed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Green Chile Chicken:
4 to 8 fresh jalapeños, tops removed and halved crosswise
1 medium onion, quartered
5 garlic cloves
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
2 pounds rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 pound queso Asadero

4½ cups masa harina
4 to 5 cups warm pork or chicken stock
1 pound lard
2½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 to 2 bags dried cornhusks

For Red Chile Pork:
Place the pork butt in a slow cooker with the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.  Cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork.  Carefully remove the pork from the liquid with a slotted spoon, shred with a fork, and set aside.  Strain the broth through a fine mesh and reserve for making the tamale dough.

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile.  Place them over a hot griddle or frying pan and toast until their aroma is released.  Be careful not to burn them.  Place the chiles in a bowl of hot water to re-hydrate.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Place the rehydrated chiles, garlic, onion, peanuts, anise seed, and cinnamon in a blender, adding ½ cup of the chile soaking water to start the blending process.  Slowly add additional soaking water as the mixture blends until you get a smooth puree.  With a spoon, work the puree through a medium mesh into a bowl, pushing and scraping to get all you can.  Discard any solids that will not go through.  Toss the sauce with the shredded pork meat and set aside.

For Green Chile Chicken:
Place jalapenos, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, cilantro, oregano, and chicken bouillon in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped, then process to desired consistency.  Toss with the shredded chicken.

Slice the poblano chiles into ¼-inch strips lengthwise and place in a bowl.  Repeat with the cheese.  Set aside with the chicken.

For the dough:
Place the masa harina in a large bowl and reconstitute by adding 4 cups warm stock.  Beat with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands until you have a stiff dough, like bread dough.  Add a little more stock if necessary.

Beat the lard in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until very fluffy and fully aerated, about 3 minutes.  It should be as light as butter creamed for the lightest butter cake.  Still mixing on medium speed, begin adding the masa a handful at a time.  Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.  When all the masa is incorporated, the mixture should be very light and delicate, like the texture of buttercream frosting.  Check the consistency by dropping a little piece of masa in a glass of water; it should float.  Beat in salt and cumin.

To make tamales:
Soak the cornhusks in a bowl of very hot, salty water for about 20 minutes.  When the cornhusks are pliable, rinse the cornhusks.

The ideal cornhusks for tamales are about 5 to 6 inches wide at the widest point; other cornhusks can be used as padding during cooking.  Spread the masa on the top half (the wider portion) of the smooth side of the selected cornhusk.  Scrape away the masa from the top inch of the cornhusk to keep the tamale from overflowing while cooking.  For pork tamales, lay 1 to 2 tablespoons of red chile pork in the center of the masa, then fold the sides in and the "tail" of the cornhusk up.  The tamale will be open at the top.  For chicken tamales, lay 1 to 2 tablespoons of green chile chicken in the center of the masa, then lay 1 strip of poblano chile and 1 strip on cheese on top of the chicken.  Fold as for pork tamales.

Steam the tamales in a large pot, with the smaller tamales in the center, covered with a kitchen towel to keep water from dripping into the open tops of the tamales.  Check during cooking to be sure that the water does not run dry.  (A trick - put a quarter in the bottom of the pot while filling it.  The coin will rattle during cooking as long as there is water in the bottom.  If the pot runs dry, the coin will stop rattling.)  The tamales are done when the masa cleanly separates from the cornhusk when unfolded slightly.  This may take between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on how full the pot is and how big the tamales are.

One recipe of dough is enough for 3 dozen tamales.  You will need two batches of dough to use up all of the pork and chicken in the recipe above.

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