This recipe is from northern Mexico and I think it is closer to the tamales made in Texas. Tamales from central Mexico are thick and fluffy and are mostly dough. This is the original recipe as it would be prepared in Mexico, including lard. Adjust as necessary to suit your sensibilities. I substitute Crisco for the lard. I also make this recipe using chicken in place of the pork. Enjoy! Garry
The smallest tamales of all are the nortenos from Coahuila and Chihuahua. They are as thick as a very fat finger and about 2 1/2 inches long. The northerners express contempt for the large, fluffy white ones of central Mexico, which to them are all dough and very little else--which is true of the commercially made ones. The dough in these is almost overcome by the filling of pork in a sauce of chiles anchos strongly flavored with cumin. Cut the meat into 1-inch squares--it should have a little fat on it--and put it into the saucepan with the onion, garlic, salt, and peppercorns. Barely cover the meat with water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer the meat until it is tender--about 40 minutes. Set the meat aside to cool off in the broth. Strain the meat, reserving the broth, and chop it roughly.
Heat the griddle and toast the chiles well, turning them from time to time so that they do not burn. Let them cool a little. When they are cool enough to handle, slit them open and remove the seeds and veins. When the chiles have cooled off they should be crisp. Crumble them into the blender jar or spice grinder and grind them with the cumin seeds to a fine powder.
Melt the lard, add the chili powder, and cook it for a few seconds, stirring it all the time. Add the meat and, continuing to cook, let it season for a minute or so. Add the pork broth and let the mixture cook for about 5 minutes over a medium flame so that it reduces a little--there should be quite a bit of sauce left. Add salt as necessary.
Make the basic dough but do not add any baking powder. Mix the chili sauce into the dough to give it a little color.
Using the smallest husks or the large ones cut in half, spread a scant tablespoon of the dough thinly over each husk, covering an area about 2 X 2 inches. Put a little of the meat with plenty of sauce into the center of the dough and fold the husk as you would for ordinary tamales. Stack the tamales in the steamer and cook for about 2 hours. Test to see if they are done.
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