“Tamales are a lot of work,” admits Matt Sargent. But they are so worth it, especially since they freeze well. Matt suggests taking a rainy day to make the tamales. Once you get into the rhythm, the time will fly by.
Makes 50 tamales
For the pork:
1 (3- to 4-pound) pork shoulder
2 medium plus 1 large onion
7 cloves garlic, divided
1 tablespoon chile powder
2 tablespoons cumin, divided
1 (12-ounce) bottle IPA, such as Lawson’s
3 to 4 dried ancho chiles
Olive oil, for sautéing onions
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and black pepper
For the tamales:
3 to 4 cups masa harina, plus more as necessary
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon each cumin and garlic powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
15 to 20 dried, or 5 to 6 fresh, apricots, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 packages corn husks, soaked in very hot water for 1 hour
The day before you want to serve the tamales, prepare the pork. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Place the pork in a large heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Chop the 2 medium onions and 4 cloves of the garlic and place in the pot with the pork along with the chile powder, 1 tablespoon of the cumin and the IPA. Simmer, uncovered, on low heat for at least 4 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork. If using a pressure cooker, bring the pork, water and aromatics to full pressure and cook for about an hour.
While the pork cooks, soak the ancho chiles in very hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Remove the seeds and stems and chop the chiles.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Chop the remaining large onion and 3 cloves of garlic and sauté until soft. Add the remaining tablespoon of cumin and the cinnamon and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chopped ancho chiles and ½ cup of the reserved ancho soaking liquid. Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces by about ¼, about 15 minutes. Cool this mixture slightly, then purée in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding additional ancho chile water as needed for the right consistency.
Remove the cooled pork from the cooking liquid. Carefully purée the cooking liquid and aromatics in a blender until smooth. Shred the pork into bite-size pieces with 2 forks and combine with the ancho chile sauce. Add enough of the puréed pork cooking liquid as needed. You want the mixture moist but not runny.
Assemble the tamales: In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder and baking soda; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the shortening and mix well with a fork until well incorporated. Add enough of the puréed pork cooking liquid to form a soft, wellmoistened dough. It should hold together easily without crumbling or falling apart. Let the masa harina mixture sit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
Drain the soaked corn husks. Lay 1 husk flat on the counter. Press a small golf-ballsize piece of the masa harina mixture onto the husk and flatten it with your hands to ⅛-inch thickness, leaving a ½-inch edge on the sides and top and a 1½-inch edge along the bottom. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the pork mixture into the center of the tamale and top with a few apricots. Fold the sides onto the center of the tamale then fold up the bottom. Leave the top open. Some tamales may require a double husk. When the tamales are wrapped, carefully place them in a large stockpot containing 2 inches of water and fitted with a steamer, loosely stacking them on top of one another. Cover and steam for 40 minutes.
While the tamales steam, make this quick sauce to serve alongside them: Blend 2 large, seeded and peeled roasted red bell peppers with 3 to 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon cayenne and salt and pepper to taste until smooth.