For each batch of tamales, use a 7-ounce bag of corn husks. Cover the husks with boiling water, weigh them down (a heavy pie plate works well) and let soak for one hour.
When corn husks are softened, lightly dry them and lay them on counter top, flattened with curling-up edges facing upward.
Spread a scant 1/4 cup of the mesa batter onto the husk in a 4-inch square, leaving at least a 1-1/2-inch border on the pointy end of the husk, a 3/4-inch border along the other sides. Spoon a good 2 tablespoons of the filling down the center of the batter.
Pick up the 2 long sides of the husk and bring them together (this will cause the batter to roll around the filling, enclosing it). Roll the flaps of the husk in the same direction around the tamale. (If husk is so small that the tamale doesn't seem very well wrapped, roll it in another husk.) Fold up the empty, pointy end in a 1/2-inch section to close off the bottom. Secure it by loosely tying a strip of husk (torn from some of the extra husks) around the tamale and fold flap.
To steam: To make a steamer, place a metal rack (such as a cooling rack) in the bottom of a large stockpot or canner. Water level should be below the rack. Lay extra corn husks over rack. Stand the tamales on the folded edge in the steamer (the open edge with be facing upward).
First fill the bottom of the steamer, then start stacking tamales on top of one another. Place any extra husks on top of tamales, cover with pot lid and steam for 1 to 1-1/4 hours. Replenish boiling water if necessary during steaming, time. The tamales are done when the husk peels away easily from the filling. Yields 45-50 tamales.
Heat a griddle or heavy skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Meanwhile, remove stems and seeds from chilis while rinsing under cold running water. Place them on the griddle and toast, 3 or 4 at a time, just until the aroma is released, 30-60 seconds. Be careful not to burn them.
Place the chilis in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the chilis and discard the liquid.
Place chilis, oregano, 2 of the garlic cloves and the water in blender and process to a smooth puree. Add more water' or stock if it is too thick. Work puree through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard any solids that remain. Pour in a little more liquid to help rinse the sauce through the sieve.
In heavy, medium-size saucepan, heat lard or oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Add remaining garlic and brown in the hot fat, pressing down with the back of a cooking spoon to release flavor. Remove and discard garlic. Add flour, stirring constantly until golden. Add strained chili puree and salt to the pan and reduce the heat to low. It will splatter, so be careful. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until the raw taste is gone and the flavor of the chilis has mellowed, about 10 minutes.
Can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator up to a week or indefinitely in the freezer.
Place pork butt in large Dutch oven or medium-size stockpot. Add garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Add enough cold water to cover by at least 3 inches. Bring just to a boil on high heat, quickly reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer, partly covered, skimming any froth from the top during the first 15-20 minutes of cooking. A piece this size should be well-cooked but not dried out in 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from stock and let cool to room temperature. When cool, pull meat into fine shreds.
Strain and degrease the stock. It will be easier to remove fat when thoroughly chilled.
Can be kept, tightly covered, 2 days in the refrigerator if degreased at once, up to 1 week if you leave the top layer of fat on it until ready to use. The stock also freezes well.
In a mixing bowl, combine the shredded pork with the red chili, reserving 1/2 Cup to mix with mesa.
Beat the lard in a large bow} with an electric mixer on medium speed until very fluffy and fully aerated about 3 minutes. It may take longer if your mixer is not powerful (a heavy-duty machine such as a KitchenAid is best).
The best alternative to a mixer is not a spoon but your bare hand: whip and beat the lard with a rapid folding motion until you feel it lightening, and continue to whip until it is fluffy and full of air. It should tee es light as butter creamed for the lightest butter cake.
Still mixing on medium speed, begin adding the masa a handful at a time. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Alternatively, beat the mesa using your bare hands as a whipping and folding tool. If the mixture becomes too stiff to beat, add up to 1 cup tepid chicken or pork stock a little at a time. When all the masa has been incorporated, the mixture should be very light and delicate, the texture of butter cream frosting. Beat in the salt.
When making the tamale dough, and It has r cached the light and fluffy stage, beat in l/2 Cup Of the cooled red chili, and mix thoroughly into the dough to color it evenly.
To test the readiness of the dough, drop a teaspoon of it into a glass of water. If it floats, it's ready. If not, continue to beat.
The mixture is now ready to be spread onto corn husks, but can hold if other ingredients, such as the filling, need to be prepared. Enough for 45-50 tamales.
Recipes are from "Food From My Heart" by Zarela Martinez (MacMillan, $14) and "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" (Scribner, $35). The Fort Worth Star-Telegram contributed to this story.
From: "Food From My Heart" by Zarela Martinez and "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen"
Posted By: Tamale Festival Org.
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