On a recent visit to El Pinto -- the Albuquerque institution known not only for its restaurant (which has grown over the years to the point where they can serve up to 2,700 plates a night) but also for its all-natural green and red chile salsas and sauces (found in markets all over the U.S.) -- I learned a few things of interest to the GardenstoTables crowd: 1. El Pinto partners with a farmer in Hatch, New Mexico, to grow as many of their chiles as possible organically, which are then hand picked and roasted; and 2. How to make traditional tamales, a Christmas tradition in Mexican and New Mexican households. (Seen here in this great video by PilotGirl Productions' Sonja Stark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFSptE8i-VE).
If you've ever wanted to try your hand at making Christmas tamales, the folks at El Pinto were kind enough to pass along their recipe, which was passed down from the owners' grandmother, Josephina Chavez Griggs. Once you see all that goes into making a traditional tamale, you'll realize why it's only made for holidays: It's a lot of work. And, okay, it's a lot of lard (which you'll see in the video), too. But also filled with good things such as as onions, garlic, chiles and masa. And absolutely delicious. Enjoy.
El Pinto Tamales
Makes 50 tamales
3 1/2 lbs pork shoulder or 3 1/2 lbs pork butt, trimmed of fat and cut up (Note: can also use beef or chicken)
10 cups water
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic gloves, minced
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups red chile sauce (here is El Pinto's)
3/4 cup shortening
6 cups masa harina
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
50 dried corn husks (about 8 inches long)
1. In a 5 qt Dutch oven, bring pork, water, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil.
2. Simmer uncovered, about 2 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.
3. Remove meat from broth and allow both meat and broth to cool. (Chilling the broth will allow you to easily remove the fat if you desire to do so.)
4. Shred the meat using 2 forks, discarding fat.
5. Strain the broth and reserve 6 cups.
6. In a large sauce pan, heat the red chile sauce and add meat; simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
7. To make masa, beat shortening on medium speed in a large bowl for 1 minute.
8. In a separate bowl, stir together masa harina, baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt.
9. Alternately, add masa harina mixture and broth to shortening, beating well after reach addition. (Add just enough broth to make a thick, creamy paste).
10. In the meantime, soak corn husks in warm water for at least 20 minutes; rinse to remove any corn silk and drain well.
11. To assemble each tamale, spread 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on the center of the corn husk (each husk should be 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the top. If husks are small, overlap 2 small ones to form one. If it is large, tear a strip from the side.)
12. Place about 1 tablespoon meat and sauce mixture in the middle of the masa.
13. Fold in sides of husk and fold up the bottom.
14. Place a mound of extra husks or a foil ball in the center of a steamer basket placed in a Dutch oven.
15. Lean the tamales in the basket, open side up.
16. Add water to Dutch oven just below the basket.
17. Bring water to boil and reduce heat.
18. Cover and steam 40 minutes, adding water when necessary.
19. To freeze thes for future meals, leave them in the husks and place them in freezer bags. To reheat, thaw and wrap in a wet paper towel and reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes for one or two or re-steam them just until hot.