Since we moved away from Texas I have jones’ed for fresh tamales. Unfortunately, there isn’t a restaurant for miles around that makes them and the little Mexican guy that would drive his van through our neighborhood on Saturdays didn’t move east with us. He always had a cooler full of chicken and pork tamales for a great price and they were divine!
So I decided to make some myself.
I searched and searched for an online recipe that made sense to me, but had no luck. One weekend I was watching one of the cooking channels and was thrilled to see my favorite cook, Alton Brown, making tamales! Here is a link to the recipe I followed.
I followed his recipe to the letter, but now that I’ve made them his way, I’m going to share my own recipe for these yummy tamales. Let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Dried corn husks
1/4 cup of chili powder
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons of black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
a 2 pound Boston Butt, untrimmed of fat
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion chopped
6 cloves of minced garlic
2 jalapeno peppers, minced and seeded
2 pound bag of Masa and the following for making the Masa
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup of Crisco
4 to 5 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the Boston Butt
Cut the Boston Butt into about 4 pieces and load it into a stock pot. Cover with water and put on the stove to bring to a boil. While that’s heating up combine the chili powder, salt, paprika, garlic and onion powder, cayenne, black pepper and cumin in a bowl.
Add half of the dried spice mixture to the Boston Butt water and stir.
Put the dried corn husks in a bowl and cover them with hot water so they’ll soften. You might want to put something weighty on them to hold them down.
The Boston Butt should boil and then turn it down to a steady simmer for about 2 hours. The meat should be super fork tender by the time it’s done.
Saute Jalapeno, onion and garlic in olive oil and set aside.
Now let’s make the Masa! I love the smell of Masa! It’s a warm, sweet and inviting smell. You just can’t wait for it to be cooked so you can eat it!!
Combine 2 pounds of Masa, the Crisco, salt, baking power and the reserved liquid from the Boston Butt cooking water. I know what you’re probably thinking…the butt is still cooking! You can wait until it’s completely done cooking to make the Masa. This way the butt can be cooling off on the cutting board while you’re making the Masa.
Mix this all together with your fingers until it makes a dough that’s kind of like mashed potatoes. What I realized is the dough dries back out pretty quickly, so keep a few extra cups of cooking liquid on hand just in case. Keep the dough covered with a couple of wet paper towels while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients.
When the Boston Butt has cooled, take two forks and shred the pork while trimming away any of the fat. Add shredded pork to skillet with the sauteed onion, garlic and jalapeno and add the other half of the dried spice mixture. Saute together until well blended.
Now you’re all set to wrap these puppies up! For those directions I’m going to quote Alton!
To assemble the tamales:
Remove a corn husks from the water and pat dry to remove excess water. Working in batches of 6, lay the husks on a towel and spread about 2 tablespoons of the dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in a line down the center of the dough. Roll the husk so the dough surrounds the meat, then fold the bottom under to finish creating the tamale. Repeat until all husks, dough and filling are used. Tie the tamales, around the center, individually or in groups of 3, with kitchen twine.
Once the tamales are assembled, you’re ready to cook them. Line them up in the same stock pot you used for the meat with the tied and folded ends on the bottom of the pot. Add back the rest of the cooking liquid until it’s about a half inch from the tops of the tamales. Try not to get liquid in the tamale. You can add extra water if you need to, but I found that I had a lot of extra cooking liquid left over.
They should cook in a covered pot for about an hour, to an hour and a half.
Remove the cooked tamales carefully from the pot and enjoy with fresh pico de gallo or your favorite salsa!!
If you have any cooking liquid leftover that you don’t use in the pot to cook the wrapped tamales, save it in a jar to make your tamales wet again, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays to add to other dishes later.
Yes, tamales do take a lot of time, but the reward is worth it. They also freeze well individually wrapped in plastic and stored in a container or a plastic bag. They might be a special occasion food you prepare for a great dinner with friends, or something you’d just like to try one day. But you know what I liked most about them, besides the awesome flavor? I liked the fact that nothing was wasted! Every single item used in the dish had a purpose and everything was used. That was the best!