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Posted to Thread #30164 at 8:07 am on Mar 15, 2018

Although the recipe for the tamales called for banana leaves for steaming, I used corn husks (Rick showed how to use both):

Red Chile Pork Tamales Yield: Makes about 18 tamales INGREDIENTS For the filling:
• 16 (about 4 ounces/115 g) large dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and each torn into several pieces
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground cumin
• 1½ pounds (680 g) lean boneless pork (preferably from the shoulder), cut into ½-inch (12-mm) cubes
• Salt

For the batter:
• 10 ounces (285 g; 11/3 cups) rich-tasting pork lard (or vegetable shortening), slightly softened but not at all runny
• Salt
• 1½ teaspoons baking powder
• 2 pounds (910 g; 4 cups) fresh coarse-ground corn masa for tamales or 3½ cups (450 g) dried masa harina for tamales mixed with 2¼ cups (590 ml) hot water
• 1 to 1½ cups (240 to 360 ml) chicken broth
• 2 1-pound (455-g) packages banana leaves, defrosted if frozen

METHOD Make the filling:
1. In a large blender or food processor (or working in batches), combine the chiles, garlic, pepper, and cumin . Add 3 cups (710 ml) water, cover, and blend to a smooth purée . Strain the mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a medium (3-quart/2 .8 l) saucepan .
2. Add the meat, 3 cups (710 ml) water and 1 teaspoon salt . Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the pork is fork-tender and the liquid is reduced to the consistency of a thick sauce, about 1 hour . Use a fork to break the pork into small pieces . Taste and season with additional salt if necessary . Let cool to room temperature .

Make the batter:
1. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute . Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in 3 additions . Reduce the speed to medium low and add 1 cup (240 ml) of the broth . Continue beating for another minute or so, until a ½-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water .
2. Beat in enough of the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft (not runny) cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon . Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think it needs some .
3. For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then rebeat, adding enough additional broth or water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before .

Prepare the banana leaves and set up the steamer:
1. Unfold the banana leaves and cut off the long, hard sides of the leaves (where they were attached to the central vein) . Look for holes or rips, then cut the leaves into unbroken 12-inch (30-cm) segments; you will need 20 . Either steam the segments for 20 minutes to make them soft and pliable, or one at a time pass them briefly over an open flame or hot electric burner until soft and glossy .
2. Steaming 20 leaf-wrapped tamales can be done in batches in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan (if you stack the tamales more than 2 high they will steam unevenly) . To steam the whole recipe at once, you’ll need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico or the Asian stack steamers; you can also improvise by setting a wire rack on 4 coffee or custard cups in a large kettle .
3. It is best to line the rack or upper part of the steamer with leftover scraps of banana leaves to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor .

Form and steam the tamales:
1. Cut twenty 12-inch (30-cm) pieces of string or thin strips of banana leaf . One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out a square of banana leaf, shinyside up, and spread 1/3 cup (115 g) of the batter into an 8 x 4-inch (20 x 10-cm) rectangle over it . Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling over the left side of the batter, then fold in the right third of the leaf so that the batter encloses the filling . Fold in
the uncovered third of the leaf, then fold in the topand bottom, overlapping them to create a tight package . Loosely tie the tamales with string and set them in the steamer .
2. When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of banana leaf scraps or leftovers . Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1¼ hours . Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, adding boiling water as necessary to keep the steam steady .
3. Tamales are done when the leaf peels away from the masa easily . Let the tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up . For the best-textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through .

CHEF'S NOTE Both filling and batter can be made several days ahead, as can the finished tamales; refrigerate, well covered . Re-steam (or even microwave) tamales before serving . For even more flexibility, batter, filling, and finished tamales can be frozen . Defrost finished tamales in the refrigerator overnight before re-steaming .

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