Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pulled pork tamales

Hello, everyone!  Welcome back!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Tamales are far and away one of my favorite Mexican treats to make, although they are a little time consuming, which is why this is the one day per year I make these up!
This year, I cooked the pork a couple of days ahead of time, shredded it up and stuck in the fridge, so that when it came time to make these, they came together fairly quickly (for making tamales).  I've made these with ground beef, shredded chicken and now with shredded pork!  I think that this may be my new favorite...
I usually cook up a pork shoulder (also called a Boston Butt, even though it is the shoulder of the hog, and far away from the tail!) that weighs about 10 pounds, and freeze the leftover pork to use in quesadillas or in 14 bean soup.
I was thinking of making tamales for Cinco de Mayo this year, but I was on the fence about it, since they do take a bit of work.  However, while I was at the store, I found some Tamale flour on sale, so I figured it was a sign!  I picked some up, and figured I would just make a small batch this year, although, if you wanted to make a large batch and stick some in the freezer, these do freeze beautifully.

Here's your grocery list for this one:
1 small pork shoulder, bone-in (mine was about 5 pounds)
Spices for rub: 1/4 C chili powder, 2 tsp cumin powder, 
2 tsp garlic powder, 2 Tbs Kosher salt
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 C chicken stock, divided 
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder

For the Tamale dough:
2 C tamale flour
2 C chicken stock, or other liquid*
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 C vegetable shorting or other lard
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 C chili powder
1/2 C shredded cheese

Dried corn husks**
Kitchen twine

The day before you're ready to cook the pork shoulder, mix together the spices and rub it all over the pork shoulder, making sure to get into all of the crevices.  Put it back in the fridge, to set overnight, or up to a couple of days.

About an hour or so before you're ready to cook the pork shoulder, pull it out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature.  When I cook pork shoulder, I like to do so in my slow cooker, so go on and get that out, while you're preheating a skillet over medium heat.  Once your skillet has preheated, put about 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in, and brown your pork shoulder on all sides.

While you're waiting for it to brown, pour 1 cup of the chicken stock into the slow cooker.  It may not look like a lot of liquid, but there will be a lot of liquid released as the pork shoulder cooks.

Once your pork shoulder has browned on all sides, put it into your slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for about 4 hours, or low for 7 hours, or it easily falls apart.  

Believe me, it took all I had to pull this apart, and put it in the fridge, instead of shove it in my face.  It smelled, and tasted, amazing.

Now that the pork has been put away, don't throw out the cooking liquid - *I like to use it while I'm making the tamale dough.  This stuff is packed full of flavor!  Why throw that away, when you can use it?!  I have a fat separator for making gravy, but the bottom leaks sometimes, so I put some plastic wrap in it, to keep the whole plugged at the bottom.  Anyway, I poured the cooking liquid into the fat separator, and popped that in the fridge, for the fat to solidify at the top, leaving all of the lovely cooking liquid at the bottom.  This cooking liquid does solidify also, because of the marrow from the bone (I discussed this process in my chicken stock post), so, when you pull it out later and see that the liquid has turned into gelatin, don't be alarmed.  It's supposed to do this.

*Now then, we'll say, that through the magic of the internet, 24 hours (at least) has passed.  In a clean kitchen sink, fill it with just enough hot water to soak your dried corn husks, so that they become pliable.  Don't have any corn husks, or can't find any at your store (I sometimes have a hard time finding them...)?  No worries!  You can do this easily with aluminum foil!  I'll get into that a little bit later.
While your corn husks are softening, take your pulled pork out of the fridge, and put it into a skillet with the remaining 1 C of chicken stock, over medium heat.

Add your spices (the chili powder, dried oregano, cumin powder and garlic powder) and mix well.  Let this cook until heated through, and the pork begins to fall apart even further; about 10 minutes.  Here is a look at the gelatin cooking liquid from the slow cooker.  To make it a true liquid again, I just popped it in the microwave for 10 second intervals, until is has liquefied again, about 6 times (to make a minute).  I meant to take a picture of the fat cap that had separated out from the cooking liquid, but I forgot.  Anyway, it just lifts right off, in one piece.  

Once your pork has heated through, and the chicken stock and herbs/spices have cooked down, move it to the bowl of a mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.  This will further pull the pork down into a really fine texture, making it a perfect texture for this.  It only takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute for the mixer to finely shred this up!

Now then!  While the pork is waiting (I told you, there are quite a few steps involved in this....), in a large mixing bowl, put in the tamale flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix these up, and add in the 2/3 cup of vegetable shorting, cutting the shortening in until there are just pea sized pieces of shortening left, very much like making a pie dough.  Once the shortening has been cut in, add your spices to this mixture, and mix well.

Mix these well, leaving a well in the center, and pour in the liquids.  I ended up having exactly 1 cup of leftover cooking liquid, to which I added an additional 1 cup of chicken stock to, to make an even 2 cups.

Pour your liquids into the well of the dry ingredients, and mix well.  This will be a pretty wet dough, very sticky, but it will set up a bit as it sits, so I like to let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Once this has come together, mix in the shredded cheese (you can do it earlier, when you're mixing in the rest of the of liquid, but I forgot about it!  It's fine to mix it in later)

Once you're ready to form your tamales, cut pieces of twine, about 12 inches in length.  You'll have some you'll have to trim off as you tie them up, but it is better to have to trim some off, than to find out you don't have enough to tie the tamale up to begin with.

When you're ready, take one corn husk out of the water, place it on a clean kitchen towel, and put about 2 Tbs of the tamale dough on it.
With moistened fingers, smooth the dough out into a thin, even layer, and place a heaping tablespoon or so with the pork filling!

Fold one side of the tamale over, and ever so slightly pull the corn husk back, to expose the moist dough; then fold the other side of the corn husk over, so that the two pieces of the dough meet and kiss, to seal. 

Tightly roll one side of the corn husk over on top of the other, making sure that the corn husk doesn't get wrapped up in the tamale dough.  I tried taking pictures of this, but it really didn't photograph well enough to show what I'm saying.  It like when you're rolling up cinnamon rolls, with parchment paper.  You move the parchment paper out of the way as you're rolling the dough up; do the same thing with these.  Take both sides of  corn husk, have them kiss in the center, then fold one side over the other, and tightly roll it all up together.  Fold the bottom up over the side of the tamale, and tie it up!  I like to tie it up around the bottom, so that it doesn't unfold, and again around the middle, so that it doesn't come unfurled as it cooks.

Oh my.  Look at this loveliness.  

Now then, don't have any corn husks?  No worries, you can do this with aluminium foil.  It's the same process, except you use foil in place of the husks.  Take a piece of foil, about 10 inches square, smooth some of the tamale dough, put the filling in it, and wrap it up!  You don't need any kitchen twine, the foil stays in place.

This makes 15 tamales, which is the perfect amount for my family; most tamale recipes I can find make dozens!  So I'm glad when I can make enough for a couple of meals.  

These steam for 1 hour; I don't have a pot and steamer big enough for all of these, so I have to create my own. I take a large stock pot, and put a mixing bowl, upside down, on the bottom.  I fill it with water, to about 1 inch of the bottom (at this point, the top) of the mixing bowl).  I fill a metal colander with the tamales, and stack it on top of the mixing bowl.  It ends up looking like this:

I take the colander out while I wait for the water to come up to a boil (I have long ago lost the lid to this pot, so I just cover it with aluminum foil), but once it comes up to a boil, I can easily put the colander in, cover this and let it steam for an hour.

After an hour, I remove the colander and set it on a kitchen towel, and let them rest for about 10 minutes.  I serve it with my enchilada sauce, covered in my chicken enchiladas with homemade tortillas post.
These tamales are tender, and since you added spices on every level, are packed full of flavor!  The pork remains moist and tender.  These are definitely a family favorite in our house, and I hope they become a favorite in your house, as well!