Welcome to part 2 of my 3 part series on tamale making! Part 1 started off with the basics, the masa dough, the wrappers, and the basic cheese and poblano filling. Today I’ll get into the other two fillings I made for our tamale extravaganza.
As I mentioned, we were getting our tamale knowledge from Rick Bayless’ Mexico One Plate at a Time. I also pointed out that on the recipe on his website for the tamal dough, he links to recipes that are pretty similar to the ones in the book, but simplified. I based our fillings off of the book’s version.
The green chile chicken filling starts with roasting tomatillos and making a salsa verde. The nice thing about this recipe is that, unlike some salsa verde I’ve had, this one has a kick of spice to it (though you can reduce the amount of chiles if you prefer something milder). If you’re new to buying tomatillos, make sure to pick out smaller ones with a healthy husk that’s not shriveled or dry. Unlike tomatoes, tomatillos should be firm. When you remove the husk you’ll notice a sticky residue on the surface of the tomatillos; just rinse this off in cold water before you cook them.
This recipe would work great for other Mexican fare too, such as a burrito filling.
Green Chile Chicken Filling for Tamales
–adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time—
makes enough for about 24 tamales
– 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and well-rinsed
– 5 serrano peppers (or less..or more!), stemmed and coarsely chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
– 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
– 3 to 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
– 4 cups of shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie works wonderfully)
– 2/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
– salt, to taste
1. Place the tomatillos on a baking sheet and place under a hot broiler (about 4 inches from the top) until soft and slightly blackened, about 5 minutes. Then turn the tomatillos and roast the other side, another 4-6 minutes.
2. Let the tomatillos cool, then add them to a blender or food processor (include any juices that may remain on the baking sheet). Add chiles and garlic, and puree.
3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan (large enough to hold your puree) on medium-high. When very hot, pour in the tomatillo puree and stir for around 5 minutes, or until it begins to darken and thicken. Stir in 2 cups of the chicken broth (not all of it) and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer like this over medium heat for about 15 minutes. When the sauce is thick enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon, taste and salt generously. Remove from heat, add the cilantro and shredded chicken, and allow to cool completely.
Again, you can also use the version of this recipe on Bayless’ website, which uses a premade salsa verde, considerably reducing your cooking time.
Next up, we had a red chile pork filling. The recipe calls for lean boneless pork shoulder. Our market just had smoked pork shoulder, but it still was delicious.. in fact, you might want to try it if you’d like a smokier, bacon-y flavor. Making this filling is a lot less involved than the chicken filling, but it does need to reduce for about an hour.
Red Chile Pork Filling
–adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time—
makes about 24 tamales (or 10, if you use banana leaves instead of corn husks as we did)
– 16 (about one 4 oz bag) dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into several pieces
– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
– 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– 1 1/2 lbs smoked pork shoulder OR lean boneless pork shoulder (or similar cut), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
– salt to taste
– 6 cups water
1. Combine the chiles, garlic, pepper and cumin in a blender or food processor. Add 3 cups of water and blend until smooth.
2. Strain the puree thought a medium-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 3 cups of water and about a teaspoon of salt. Stirring frequently, simmer the sauce, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the pork is very tender and the liquid has reduced into a thick sauce.
3. Break apart the pork pieces with a fork (this should happen easily if pork has been cooked long enough). Taste and season with salt if needed. Let the filling cool before using.
Here’s the link to a similar recipe on Bayless’ website. It’s a bit simpler, but unlike the chicken, this pork recipe actually differs a bit more in terms of ingredients, and presumably in flavor as well.
Now you’ve got your husk/leaves, your dough, and your fillings… all that’s left is assembly and steaming!