Thursday, June 25, 2015

Red Pork Chile Tamale Pie (Cazuela de Tamal) - Because Making Tamales Is A Pain In The Culo

New tamale cookbook arrived this morning. Stubborn, I am.

Finally done with this fiddling project which damn near sent me over the edge this week.  Not that it takes much at any time, but cooking is supposed to be therapeutic and this time it was anything but. The good thing is that the tamale pies came out really good.  The bad thing is that I have a headache, a backache, and a low-grade panic attack.

This recipe comes with a disclaimer: this version is untested.  It came together in stages, during which I was having a nervous breakdown while flipping back and forth between 3 different recipes. I tried to make it a logical set of instructions.  I hope it makes sense.

The tamale pie is absolutely delicious, unexpectedly so because I struggled so much for so long.  Having done it once, I expect it will be easier the next time.  The masa, which by its nature is at risk of coming out heavy, dense, and bland, was the best I've made.

I made two pies from this recipe, using 10 inch aluminum pie plates.  One is already wrapped and frozen, the other is cut into eighths for family consumption.

Red Pork Chile Tamale Pie

Pork for Filling
4 1/2 to 5 pounds boneless pork butt
1 large onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic

Place the pork, onions, and garlic in a large pot and cover with water.  Over high heat bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. Carefully remove the meat from the liquid and set aside to cool. Cut the pork butt into one inch cubes.

Red Pork Chile Sauce - From Tamales 101
10 ancho chiles
4 guajillo chiles
4 onions, quartered
8 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cups chicken stock
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 Knorr chicken cubes
1 tablespoon each granulated garlic, onion powder, chili powder, ground black pepper

20 - 30 extra large black olives, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1/2 of each bell pepper: red, green, yellow - chopped

Seed the chiles, set aside.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove the water from the heat, and add the chiles, pushing them down with a spoon so they are fully submerged.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, boil the onions for 25 minutes, until soft.

Remove the soaked chiles from the water, reserving 2 cups of the liquid.  In a food processor. blend the chiles, boiled onions, and garlic. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Stir the cumin into the oil, being careful not to burn it.  Add the chile mixture and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the chicken stock, 1 cup of the chile cooking liquid, the crushed tomatoes, the tomato sauce, sugar, kosher salt, Knorr chicken cubes, and the remaining spices, 1 tablespoon each.  Cook for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick you can add a little more of the stock and/or the chile cooking liquid. but don't thin it too much. Adjust the seasoning and cook a little longer for all the flavors to come together.

Place the pork cubes in a 9 x 13 aluminum baking dish; pour the chile sauce over the pork, cover the pan and place in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.  At the same time, heat the olive oil in a large pan; add the onion, garlic, and bell peppers and sauté until the vegetables are tender.  Remove the pan from the oven; stir the cooked vegetables and the olives into the pork and sauce. You now have the complete filling for the tamale pie.

Masa for Tamale Pie - From Serious Eats
3 cups masa harina para tamales (Maseca)
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup cold lard or Crisco
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

This recipe produces an awesome masa.  In a large bowl, combine the masa harina and the chicken stock. Stir until completely incorporated.  Combine the lard, salt, and baking powder, and using an electric mixture, beat at medium-high speed until lightly whipped, about 1 minute.

Add 1/4 of the re-hydrated masa at a time to the lard, beating between additions until thoroughly incorporated. The masa should be soft and spreadable, with a hummus-like texture. Cover and refrigerate the masa for an hour.  

Assembly and Baking: Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove masa from refrigerator, and re-whip, adding stock 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to return it to original hummus-like texture. Lightly grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet or 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or oil, wiping up any excess.  

(Okay here's where I veered: I picked up a package of 2 aluminum pie plates, the big, 10-inch size. I greased them with a very small amount of the lard and then followed the instructions, dividing the masa across 2 pie plates.)

Scrape 1/2 of  2/3 of masa into each pie pan and press to form an even thin layer on bottom and edge. Spoon some filling (I used a slotted spoon) in each tin, Try to keep it level, and don't over fill.  Wrap and freeze the remaining filling for another occasion.  

Gently form a top crust with the remaining masa. Now as you can see from the photos, I was short enough mesa to totally cover the top.  Weirdly enough, it didn't matter, but if stuff like that bothers you, try increasing the recipe using 4 cups each masa harina and stock, 1 cup cold lard, 1 tablespoon each salt and baking powder.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden and firm to the touch, and the filling is heated through.  Let it cool before cutting to serve.  

You can serve it with any of the usual condiments but for this occasion I prepared a creamy avocado dip which also works as a topping or condiment.

But that's another blog post.

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