*  Exported from  MasterCook  *
                              Tamales Nortenos
 Recipe By     : Garry Howard
 Serving Size  : 6    Preparation Time :0:00
 Categories    : Meats                            Mexican
   Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
 --------  ------------  --------------------------------
    1      package       dried corn husks
                         THE MASA
    4      cups          masa harina
    4      cups          lukewarm water
    4      teaspoons     Wyler’s granulated chicken boullion
    2      teaspoons     baking powder
    2      teaspoons     salt
    1 1/2  cups          lard or vegetable shortening
                         CHILE SEASONING
    2      ounces        ancho chile -- dried
    2      ounces        pasilla chile -- dried
    2      ounces        guajilla chile -- dried
    2      ounces        New Mexican red chile -- dried
                         THE FILLING
    1 1/2  pounds        pork shoulder or beef shoulder roast
      1/2  large         onion -- sliced
    5      cloves        garlic -- peeled & smashed
    2      teaspoons     salt
   10                    peppercorns
    1      teaspoon      cumin seeds
    4      tablespoons   ground chile seasoning
    4      tablespoons   lard or vegetable shortening
 For a  version of this recipe complete with  step-by-step pictorial
 instructions, visit the Mexican page on my Home Cookin' website:
 There are several different styles of tamales. Tamales from central Mexico are
 thick and fluffy and are mostly dough. Many commercially made tamales in the
 United States are similar. I have found tamales in Colorado restaurants fit
 this description. This recipe is for homemade tamales as prepared in Northern
 Mexico and is typical of the tamales made in Texas. They are thin, about the
 thickness of a very fat finger, and about 2 1/2 inches long. There is a high
 ratio of the strongly chile and cumin flavored filling to the dough. 
 These are the kind of tamales I grew up on. I fondly remember living in San
 Antonio where every small Mexican grocery had a steamer full of homemade
 tamales on the counter. My parents would stop and pick up a dozen and pass a
 couple of the steaming hot tamales to
 my brother and I in the backseat. A few years ago while living in Denver I was
 frustrated with the tasteless, doughy mass that passes for a tamale there and
 became determined to learn to make my own. 
 The subject of making tamales comes up frequently on food-related mailing
 lists and newsgroups. The process is difficult to explain verbally. Now, with
 the magic of the internet I can share the secret of homemade tamales
 pictorially. Making tamales is a time-consuming, 
 labor-intensive effort but don't be discouraged. With a little practice you
 can turn out professional looking homemade tamales and you won't regret it.
 Just pick an afternoon to devote to tamale making and give it a try. Tamales
 freeze well and can either be reheated in the microwave or by steaming.
 The Corn Husks
 The dried husks are brittle and must be soaked in water to soften them before
 they can be rolled into tamales. In the package, the husks for a whole ear of
 corn are usually pressed together. Separate the individual husks being careful
 not to break them, since they are fragile when dry.
 Place the separated husks in a large pot and cover with hot water. Leave them
 to soak for about one hour. You can put a plate with a heavy object on it on
 top of the tamales to keep them submerged. When soft, rinse the husks well and
 put back into a pot of clean water.
 The Filling
 While the husks are soaking, prepare the meat filling. The chile used to
 season tamales is the ancho. The ancho is the ripened, dried form of the
 poblano. It has a rich, smoky flavor. While other dried chiles can be used for
 seasoning, the ancho provides an authentic flavor. I like to use a combination
 of chiles for seasoning tamales.
 Toast the dried chiles on a hot cast-iron griddle for a few minutes on each
 side. Be careful not to burn the chiles or they will have a bitter taste. As
 the chiles toast, they will become soft and pliable and may puff up. Put aside
 to cool. The chiles will become very crisp and
 brittle when cooled.
 When cool, remove the seeds and stems and crumble into small pieces. Put the
 pieces into a coffee mill or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Store
 the ground chile mix in a jar to use for seasoning other Mexican dishes.
 You can use a variety of meats for making tamales. I use either beef or
 chicken, but pork is traditional. I also use vegetable shortening, although
 again, lard is traditionally used in Mexico. Cut the meat into 1 to 2
 chunks. Heat the lard or shortening in a heavy bottomed pot and brown the
 meat. When brown, add enough water to cover the meat and add the onions and
 garlic. Simmer until the meat is fork tender and flakes apart. For beef
 shoulder roast this will take about 2 - 3 hours.
 While the meat is cooking, toast the cumin seeds on a cast iron griddle and
 then grind into a fine powder using a coffee mill or spice grinder and set
 When the meat is cooked tender, set aside to cool. Separate the meat chunks
 from the broth, reserving the broth. Shred the meat into small strands.
 The Masa
 The tamale dough, or masa, is made from masa harina, a corn flour that is also
 used for making tortillas. Masa mix can be purchased in Latin American markets
 or supermarkets that carry Latin American products. It can also be purchased
 by mail order if not available locally. It is NOT the same as corn meal.
 I recently found a new version of Maseca brand masa that is specifically
 formulated for tamales. It is a little coarser than the tortilla masa and
 gives the tamales a better texture. If you are lucky enough to live in an area
 with a large Hispanic population, you can buy prepared masa and save yourself
 the trouble of having to mix it from scratch.
 Combine masa, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Dissolve the boullion in the
 lukewarm water to make a broth. Mix the broth into the masa a little at a
 time, working with your fingers to make a moist dough.
 In a small bowl, beat lard or shortening until fluffy, add to masa and beat
 until masa has a spongy texture.
 The Tamales
 Remove a soaked corn husk from the water and shake to remove  excess water.
 Start with the largest husks because they will be easier to roll. If you end
 up with a lot of small husks, you can lay two together, overlapping about 1/2
 but this is a little trickier and may take some practice. Lay the husk flat on
 a plate and spread about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons (depending on the size of the
 husk) of masa in the center. 
 Don't use too much! The easiest way to spread the masa is to spoon it onto the
 husk and spread it with your fingers. If the masa is sticky, wet your hands.
 Add about 1 tablespoon of meat filling on top of the masa. Again, don't use
 too much. 
 Now comes the tricky part. Roll the corn husk so that the filling is enclosed
 in the masa. Don't worry if the filling is not completely surrounded with
 masa. When the masa cooks it will become firm and the tamale will be fine.
 Fold over each end. If the husks are very thick, you may find it difficult to
 fold the large end and get it to stay. If this is the case, don't worry about
 folding the large end and put that end up when you put the tamales into the
 Load the tamales into a steamer standing them up vertically. I use a large pot
 with a steamer basket in the bottom. When all the tamales are rolled, and the
 steamer is full, cover with a damp cloth and steam until the tamales are done,
 about 2 to 3 hours. During steaming it is very important to keep the water at
 a low boil. Also, DO NOT let the steamer boil out of water.
 TIP: Place a coin, a penny works good, in the bottom of the steamer with the
 water. You can tell when the water is boiling because you can hear the coin
 rattling around. If the coin stops rattling, the water has boiled away and you
 should add more.
 After about 2 hours, you may want to pull out a tamale and sample it. Let it
 cool for a few minutes and then unroll the husk. The tamale should be soft and
 firm and not mushy.
 Now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bite into one of these
 delicacies and you will know the answer to the question “Why am I doing this?”
 that you kept asking yourself while you were making them.
 As I said in the beginning, tamales can be a lot of work, but they are worth
 it and I strongly encourage you to give it a try. If you have further
 questions, please send me mail and I will try to help.
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 NOTES : Recipe by: Garry Howard, Cambridge, MA
 Garry’s Home Cooking Website