Nana's Tamales
6 oz Package of dried corn husk, soaked overnight and rinsed
2 lbs Pork shoulder, not trimmed
1 Medium onion
3 cups Water
2 tbsp Canola or vegetable oil
1 Whole head of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup Ground dried New Mexico Chile
2 tbsp Crushed chile de arbol or chile pequin
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 tbsp Dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
6 cups Dried masa harina
2 cups Vegetable or canola oil
4 1/2 cups Hot water or hot pork seasoned broth, more as needed
2 tbsp Kosher salt

Soak and rinse all corn husks the night before. I wrap well in plastic wrap and place clean in fridge. If they dry, I put back into a deep bowl of warm water.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the pork, onion, and a few smashed garlic cloves with 2 cups of water in a medium-sized baking dish. Bake covered for approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours until meat easily falls apart. Remove meat from the broth and set aside to cool for a few minutes. If the broth does not measure two cups of water, add water to make 2 cups liquid. Taste and add additional salt if needed. When the pork has cooled enough to handle, shred it finely with your fingers or two forks. Reserve the pork and the broth.

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add minced garlic and the pork. Stir in the ground chile, chile de albo, salt, oregano, and reserved pork broth. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 30 minutes until the chile has thickened and most liquid has evaporated but the meat remains moist. Watch carefully toward the end of the cooking time, stirring frequently to avoid burning the pork. The filling will be melting tender. Reserve.

Prepare the masa, the dough made from the masa harina cornmeal. Measure the masa harina into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil or Manteca, water, and salt. Mix with a powerful electric mixer, preferably, or with a sturdy spatula or with your hand, until smooth. When well blended, the masa should have the consistency of a very moist cookie dough. Add more water if needed for the preferred consistency.

To assemble, the amount of masa and filling used for each tamale should be approximately equal, but each corn husk is different in size so it will vary. To make 2 dozen of 4 ounce tamales, use 2 tablespoons each of masa and filling. Hold a corn husk flat on one hand or flat on the table. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of masa across the husk and top it with the filling. Hold a corn husk flat on one hand or flat on the table. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of masa across the husk and top it with the filling. Roll the husk into the desired shape, using your imagination. Repeat the procedure until all the filling and masa are used. I also wrap in a deli sheet of paper.

Then stand all straight up in a steamer, cover and steam for 60 minutes. Then I lower flame to low for another 10 minutes to let set. Carefully remove a tamale from the pan to check the masa’s consistency. If lightly firm and no longer sticking to the corn husk, it’s done. As they cool, it will firm up. Do not open while hot, fresh tamales are very delicate.

Tamales should be eaten warmed. The corn husks are usually left on when tamales are served, to be removed by each guest before eating. These tamales are delicious with a ladle of red chile sauce too, but if you do add sauce husks need to be removed before adding sauce.

Recipe contributed by Michelle Montoya of Nana’s Tamales in Temecula, California