Tag Archives: tamales

Tamales – Black Bean & Sweet Potato and Red Pulled Pork … and a BBQ Pizza

I haven’t made tamales in some time but a craving, a trip to the local Mexican grocery store for various types of chiles, and the timely sale of boneless pork loin, meant that I decided to invest a hot weekend in the second half of August (and an efficient A/C system), on making a batch of red pulled pork. The vegetarian option came about due to a large sweet potato that had been languishing in my basement for a couple of weeks and most of a can of black beans in the freezer.

The basic masa recipe can be found here. The red pulled pork recipe is here.


Black Bean and Sweet Potato Filling

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamale Filling – makes about 5 cups, enough for 24-28 tamales

a splash to 1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large tomato, peeled and seeded and coarsely chopped or 1 cup diced, canned tomatoes with juice**
1/2 onion, finely diced or 1/2 tsp dried minced onion**
1 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
1 cup corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced into ~1/2 inch cubes, drizzled with oil, salt and some chili powder and roasted until tender
salt, to taste

1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese (separately or in any combination desired)

** I added canned tomatoes and the dried minced onion as that’s what I had. I had made red pulled pork the day before with pureed chiles, onion and pepper and after straining the braising liquid, I added a couple of tablespoons to the filling below. Chile powder or cumin may be added if desired for a bit of smoky flavour.

In a medium sized saute pan, over medium heat, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and the diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the diced tomato and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomato has broken down but the mixture still has a bit of moisture in it. (If using the dried minced onion, just add a splash of oil, your diced tomato and cook until the onion is rehydrated.)

Add the black beans, corn and sweet potato. Stir through to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add a bit more salt if needed.

And if you have leftover pulled pork, give this quick pizza try.

BBQ Pizza with Red Pulled Pork (on Sourdough Tortillas) – BBQ sauce, shredded pork, grated cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese and sliced green onion on a sourdough tortilla. Baked at 400 deg F for 8-10 minutes.


Carrot Cake, Tamales and Savoury Empanadas

My freezer/pantry clear out has taken a serious turn and I can finally see the bottom of the upstairs freezer. And there are darned few things left in there so I’ve had to be creative.

Even the carrot cake was partially made with a freezer item, the last of a bag of walnuts from Costco. I DID have to buy a can of crushed pineapple though. And, killing two birds with one stone … carrot cake is on my cooking bucket list. I haven’t crossed anything off it in ages. The results were great. I used a recipe I found on Fridgg, even though I had several recipes stored away already on my hard drive. That ‘shiny, new’ tendency strikes again.

Pineapple carrot cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting and a garnish of walnut halves

I made half the recipe and baked 12 large cupcakes with the resulting batter. Perfect for a single person or couple.

The tamales were made with the last of a bag of Maseca brand masa harina and dried corn husks from my storage area. Instead of water I used frozen ham broth from the picnic shoulder ham I boiled a while ago to flavour the tamales. I made a shredded mole chicken filling with poached bone in chicken breasts. The mole paste was a jarred brand, Dona Maria. The filling wasn’t quite as good as the red pulled pork I’ve used in the past but beggars can’t be choosers.

Destined for the freezer and quick meals

Tamales with a bit of mole sauce to drizzle over

Steamed tamales

The savoury Mexican chorizo and potato empanadas were made with home made chorizo and pie crust (Tenderflake lard recipe from the box) from my freezer. I got 2 dozen 5″ diameter empanadas from a bit less than 1 pound of fried chorizo and some limp potatoes from the basement, cubed and pan fried until brown and crispy.

Pan fried potatoes and chorizo filling

Tamales Day #2 – From Making the Masa to the finished Tamale

Picture Heavy Warning: Many pics … everywhere! I proof read this post as carefully as possible, but, if something is confusing, please ask for clarification.

The finished tamales with various sauces (from left to right): Strained pork braising liquid, salsa (Hot Old El Paso cause I didn’t have the energy to make any from scratch) and a mole made with 2 parts pork braising liquid and 1 part Dona Maria mole sauce. They were all good.

Possible servings photo IMG1082_zps4c816d30.jpg

Tamale with mole sauce

Tamale with mole photo IMG1085_zps7279a2a3.jpg

Inside the pork with mole

Inside the tamale photo IMG1088_zpsd062b3a7.jpg

Day 2

Now that you’ve got your pulled pork filling ready, it’s time to make the masa, assemble your tamales, steam them and then, FINALLY, it’s time to EAT.

Assembling the steamer basket:

Steamer inserts from left to right: steamer stand, collapsible steamer and cake cooling rack

Stand, collapsible steamer basket and cooling rack photo IMG1012_zpse8248f34.jpg

Stacked steamer set up

Steamer assembly photo IMG1013_zps57f1265d.jpg

Steamer Assembly in Stockpot

Inside the stockpot/steamer photo IMG1014_zpse932e648.jpg

By the way, I let my steamer run dry because it vented steam like mad and I didn’t realize that most of the water had evaporated so quickly, though I suspected something had happened from the burned smell. Scrubbing the black crust of burnt corn when I was done was NOT fun. 😦  It’s hard to believe that 12 cups boiled away in about 90 minutes but it happened.

For the 2nd batch of tamales, I added at least 4 cups of boiling water every 15 minutes.

Another way to make sure that your steaming pot DOESN’T run dry is to put a couple of pennies in the bottom of the pot full of water. As long as the water is boiling, the pennies will jump around and make a noise. When the noise slows down or STOPS, you’ve run dry.

There are lots of videos about how to assemble the tamales so I’m not going to post any pictures, even though I have a TON. Instead, these are my finished tamales.

Steamed tamale still in the corn husk

Steamed tamales photo IMG1069_zps4d447ea9.jpg

Peeling open the corn husk – the not pretty side of the tamale

Steamed with husk removed photo IMG1070_zps88e21d86.jpg

Pretty side of the tamale ready for saucing

Tamale ready for saucing photo IMG1084_zps8fbcfd6d.jpg

Masa – makes 20-24 tamales

24-28 dried corn husks
4 cups masa harina for tamales (Maseca brand is good)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup lard
3 1/2 – 4 cups water or stock (chicken or pork), warm

Rehydrating the corn husks

Bring a pot of water, large enough to hold the husks, to the boil. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner, gently submerge the husks, and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. As with pasta, it will take a little while for the husks to become pliable enough to be fully submerged. When ready to fill the husks, drain off some of the hot water and replace it with enough cold water to be able to handle the husks.

NOTE: You can take some of the smaller (narrower) corn husk and tear them into 1/8″ strips for tying or overlap two husks if you run short at the end. For the giant husks, tear off an inch on the side and use that for the ties. Always soak more husks than you need.

Preparing the masa

Whisk together the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whip the lard in a kitchen stand blender with the paddle for at least 5 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible into the lard.

Gradually add the masa mixture to the lard, a cup at a time, until it has all been mixed into the lard.

With the mixer turned on, gradually add 3 cups of the warm stock to the masa in the bowl. Then add, more stock, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is about the texture of soft cookie dough. Let the dough stand at room temperature (covered with a damp cloth) for 5-10 minutes so that the masa absorbs the liquid evenly.

Assembling the tamale

To wrap the tamales, place 1 soaked corn husk (drain off the excess water or blot a little off if you wish), with the narrow end pointed towards you and the smoother cup shaped side up, on the working surface in front of you. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the masa and place it down on the husk in about the middle. With your fingers, pat down the masa mixture into a roughly 3×3″ circle (with the lower edge about 1″ from the pointed end of the husk). It should be about 1/4″ thick and as even as you can get it.

Place about a tablespoon of the filling in a strip in the center third of the masa circle. Leave about an inch or less of the masa at the bottom edge (closest to you) free of filling.

Use the husk to enclose the filling. Start by folding up the bottom edge of masa opening up the husk again so that you can see your masa/filling before you fold the next edge. Repeat with the right edge and finally the left edge. Check to make sure that your filling is well covered by the masa and an even log about 1″ inch wide and 3″ long results.

Refold, starting at the bottom, then the right edge and rolling over the left edge to form a snug but not tight bundle.

Tie with a strip of torn corn husk just above the top of the filling.

Repeat until you’ve used up all your masa dough. If you run out of filling, make ’empty’ tamales. They taste just as good with some sauce on top.

Steaming the tamales

Once you’ve wrapped all the tamales, prepare a deep pot with a steamer insert by filling the pot with water until the waterline is just below the level of the steamer insert. Place the tamales in the steamer vertically, with the tied end facing up.

Wet a kitchen towel, and cover the pot with the towel before covering it with the lid. This prevents condensation from forming on the lid, which will drip down and make your tamales watery if you chose NOT to tie them up. Make sure to fold the bits of towel hanging out of the pot up over the lid so they do not catch on fire.

Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat so you can barely see a steady stream of steam escaping. Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (I let mine go the full 2 hrs though it would have been fine 15 minutes earlier.) Make sure you check the steamer periodically to make sure you don’t run out of water.

For a sauce, either use the strained braising liquid from the pork filling, a mole sauce (home made or purchased) or a salsa (home made or purchased).

The tamales will keep for about 1 week in the fridge, or for a few months in the freezer. You can re-steam or heat them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel to warm them up.

In conclusion, I want to say that making these tamales was worth the time and effort it took. They’re actually better than ones I’ve ordered in a REAL Mexican restaurant, where they were under-seasoned and less than generous with the filling. These tamales were great without any sauce at all.

For the next batch, I’ll probably try a chicken chile verde filling. I learned a lot and, after eating 3 tamales, I still have 22 left so it’s a good ‘make ahead and freeze for later’ recipe. I also had enough pork filling for about 5 generously filled pulled pork buns. And you can even make vegetarian tamales with baked squash and cheese, if that’s your preference.

Now, I just need someone to come over and do my dishes cause I’m BUSHED and full. 🙂

Tamales Day #1 – The Pulled Pork

Back in 2013, I made one of the items on my food bucket list … tamales.  But, first, I made the pulled pork filling to put inside them.

Making tamales is a multi-step process, especially if you want to make the best darned tamales EVER because you’ve been looking forward to making them for so long.

Day 1

CREDIT: Although I used a combination of several recipes to come up with the pulled pork recipe below, the basic recipe I started with was found here on Ashlee’s “I’m Topsy Turvy” blog. Her green enchilada sauce sounds pretty good for a future chicken tamale filling … when I recover from this marathon session. 🙂

Making a pork filling for tamales can be as simple as roasting a piece of pork seasoned with some salt, pepper and maybe a bit of garlic and then sticking it inside your tamale, or as elaborate as making a braising liquid for the pulled pork using chiles, herbs and spices and then a laborious mole sauce with more chiles, ground seeds etc. and using the spiced meat and sauce to fill your tamales. I chose a method that was somewhere between the two extremes in the number of ingredients and techniques used.

This is the boneless pork shoulder blade roast I started with. The marks are from the large netting while held it into a roast shape.

Whole Pork Shoulder photo IMG120_zps9232ec6c.jpg

The result, almost 3 hrs later, was a pulled pork which made me want to eat the whole thing in buns and forget making the tamales. By the way, it’s amazing how much shrinkage you get from a 3 pound pork shoulder, once you braise it and get rid off all the remaining fat and connective tissue. I can understand wanting to stretch the tasty meat by putting it inside a tamale. 🙂

Pulled Pork Sandwich photo IMG1051_zps22897f8c.jpg

Red Chile Pulled Pork

3 – 3 1/2 pound pork shoulder blade roast, boneless
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Chile Braise for Pork – makes >3 cups, enough for 3 batches of pulled pork
3 each ancho, guajillo and red chiles, stemmed and seeded
~2 cups boiling water, for soaking dried chiles
1 medium onion, quartered
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup diced tomatoes, with liquid

Braising Herbs and Spices for Pork
5 whole cloves
3″ cinnamon stick
4-5 whole bay leaves, dry toasted
6-10 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano (Mexican, if possible)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp salt

Chiles used for the Chile Colorado (red chile) braising liquid: Anchos (dark fat ones), hot red chiles (little ones) and guajillo (long reddish brown ones)

 photo IMG113_zps1bc78d3a.jpg

In a medium sized bowl, break up the chiles and pour in enough boiling water to cover well (1-2 cups). Use another weighted bowl on top to make sure the chiles are submerged. Soak for about 30 minutes, then remove the soaked chiles to a blender. Pour the soaking liquid through a strainer, leaving the grit on the bottom behind, and reserve the liquid to help puree the chiles later.

Cut the pork shoulder into 4 x 1 1/2-2″ thick strips. Brown all sides in vegetable oil in a Dutch oven at medium high heat. A couple of chunks at a time would be best as you don’t want to crowd the pan or lower the heat. Transfer browned pieces to a large bowl until they’re all done then drain off all the accumulated fat in the dutch oven, blotting off any remaining gently with a paper towel so as to retain the browned bits on the bottom.

Sprinkle the salt evenly over the 4 chunks of pork and place them into your dutch oven.

In a dry frying pan, char the quartered onion and the garlic cloves turning over so all sides are done. Remove to the blender with the chiles. Add the oregano and thyme as well as the diced tomatoes with any liquid. Add a bit of the chile soaking liquid and puree until you get a fairly even mixture. (I used all of the draining liquid and it was thick but pourable.) Use 1/3 of this mixture (about 1 cup) to braise the pork. Keep the rest (~2 cups) for another day.

Ground chiles, tomatoes and herbs

Chiles and tomato sauce photo IMG1037_zps8d3171e7.jpg

Charred onions and garlic cloves

Charred onion and garlic photo IMG115_zps9443e726.jpg

Preheat the oven to 325 deg Fahrenheit.

In the same frying pan, toast the bay leaves until just beginning to bubble and brown. Add them to the dutch oven with the pork. Also add the chile-tomato mixture, the coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, and the cinnamon stick. If the pork isn’t covered by the mixture, rinse your blender with some water to get the rest of paste dissolved and then add more water as needed. You want to have enough water so that the pork just barely peeks out and is in only one layer in the bottom of the dutch oven.

Toasted bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, cloves, cumin and coriander seeds

Herbs and spices photo IMG118_zps8b99a148.jpg

Place the dutch oven on the stove and heat the contents until they come to a boil. Cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Braise for 2 hrs or until the pork falls apart when you stick a fork into it.

Pork ready for braising

Pork ready for braising photo IMG1035_zpsb305c31f.jpg

Remove the dutch oven to the top of the stove, tilt the pot and, with a large spoon, carefully remove as much of the accumulated fat on top as you can. Return the dutch oven to the oven and cook for another half hour, uncovered, to concentrate the braising liquid. You want about 2 cups of concentrated liquid to be left.

Remove the dutch oven from the oven to the top of the stove again. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the meat into a large bowl so that it can cool enough to be handled. When cool, remove fat from the meat and then, very coarsely, shred the meat.

Strain the braising liquid so as to remove the seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves etc. Refrigerate the liquid so that any remaining fat hardens and can be removed and then use the liquid to moisten your pulled pork.

Finished pork ready to be ‘pulled’ or shredded with 2 forks

Finished pulled pork photo IMG1047_zpsd6c1241b.jpg