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Featuring Chocolate and Coriander/Cilantro
Roasted Pork Tamales with Classic
Red Mole

by Rick Bayless
Frontera Grill

Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: Makes about 18 tamales
Mole to go with tamales

For the filling:

16 large (about 4 ounces) dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and each torn into several pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean boneless pork shoulder cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the batter:

10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) rich-tasting lard (or vegetable shortening, if you wish), slightly softened but not at all runny
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 pounds (4 cups) fresh, coarse-ground corn masa for tamales or 3 1/2 cups dried
masa harina for tamales mixed with 2 1/4 cups hot water
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1-pound package banana leaves, defrosted if frozen

To prepare the filling, combine the chiles, garlic, pepper, and cumin in the bowl of a large blender or food processor. Add 3 cups water and cover. Blend until the mixture becomes a smooth purée. Strain the purée through a medium-mesh strainer into a 3-quart saucepan and add the meat, 3 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt to the purée. Simmer uncovered over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the pork is tender when pierced with a fork and the cooking liquid is reduced to the consistency of a thick sauce (it will take about one hour). Use a fork to break the pork into small pieces. Taste the pork and season with additional salt if necessary. Let cool to room temperature.

To prepare the tamale batter, place the lard of shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat paddle. Beat the lard or shortening on medium-high speed with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted), in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water. Beat in enough additional broth to give the batter the consistency of soft (not runny) cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon. Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think it is necessary. For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then beat again, adding enough additional broth or water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.

Unfold the banana leaves and cut off the long, hard sides of the leaves, where they were attached to the central vein. Look for holes or rips, then cut leaves into unbroken 12-inch segments (you will need 20). Either steam the segments for 20 minutes to make them soft and pliable, or one at a time pass them briefly over an open flame or hot electric burner until soft and glossy.

Twenty leaf-wrapped tamales can be steamed in batches in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan (if you stack the tamales more than two high they will steam unevenly). To steam the whole recipe at once, you'll need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico or Asian stack steamers, or you can improvise by setting a wire stack on 4 coffee or custard cups in a large kettle. It is best to line the rack or upper part of the steamer with leftover scraps of banana leaves to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave tiny gaps between the leaves so condensing steam can drain off.

To form the tamales, cut twenty 12-inch pieces of string or thin strips of banana leaf. One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out a square of banana leaf, shiny-side up, and on it spread 1/3 cup of the batter into an 8 by 4 inch rectangle. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling over the left side of the rectangle of batter, then fold in the right third of the leaf so that the batter encloses the filling. Fold in the third of the leaf that is not covered by batter, so that the batter encloses the filling. Fold in the uncovered third of the leaf, then fold in the top and bottom. Loosely tie the tamales with string and set them in the steamer.

When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of banana leaf scraps of leftovers. Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours. Watch carefully so that all the water doesn't boil away, and to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary.

Tamales are done when the leaf peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best-textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.

Mole to go with tamales

Yield: Serves 8

Classic Red Mole:

3 medium (5 ounces) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 cup ( 2 1/2 ounces) sesame seeds
About 1/2 cup lard or vegetable oil, plus a little more if necessary
6 medium (3 ounces) dried mulato chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Scant 1/2 cup (2 ounces) almonds
1/2 cup (2 ounces) raisins
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground anise seed (optional)
Scant 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 slice firm white bread, darkly toasted and broken into several pieces
1 ounce (about 1/3 of a 3.3-ounce tablet) Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
4 to 5 tablespoons sugar
Sprigs of watercress or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Set out all the ingredients. Spread the tomatillos on a baking sheet and roast them 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 or 5 minutes, until splotchy-black, blistered and soft. Set out 2 large bowls and scrape the tomatillos, juice and all, into one of them. Set out a pair of tongs and a slotted spoon.

In an ungreased, small skillet set over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly until golden, about 5 minutes. Scrape 2/3 of them in with the tomatillos; set the rest aside for garnish.

Set a large (8- to 9-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela) over medium heat. Measure the lard or oil into the pot. Turn on an exhaust fan or open a window or door. Tear the chiles into flat pieces and, when the lard or oil is hot, fry the chiles, three or four at a time, flipping them constantly with the tongs, until their interior sides have changed to a lighter color, about 20 to 30 seconds total frying time. Don't toast them so darkly that they begin to smoke-that will make the mole bitter. As they're done, remove them to the empty bowl, being careful to drain as much fat as possible back into the pot. Remove any stray chile seeds left in the fat. Cover the toasted chiles with hot tap water and submerge a plate over them to ensure even rehydration. Let stand about 30 minutes.

With the pot still on the heat, fry the garlic and almonds, stirring regularly until browned (the garlic should be soft, the almonds browned through), about 5 minutes. With the slotted spoon, remove them to the tomatillo bowl, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot. Now, add the raisins to the hot pot. Stir with your slotted spoon for 20 to 30 seconds, until they've puffed and browned slightly. Scoop them in with the tomatillos, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot.

Raise the temperature under the pot to medium-high. Sprinkle all sides of the turkey breast halves with salt, then lay one half in the pot. Thoroughly brown it on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove to a clean plate; brown the other half in the same way. Cover and refrigerate if not completing Steps 3 and 4 within an hour or so. Set the pot aside off the heat.

Use tongs to transfer the rehydrated chiles to a blender, leaving the soaking liquid behind. Taste the soaking liquid, and, if it is not bitter, measure 2 1/2 cups into the blender. If it is bitter, throw the soaking liquid away and measure in 2 1/2 cups water. Blend the chiles to a smooth purée, adding a little extra water if necessary to keep the mixture moving through the blades. Press the chile mixture through a medium-mesh strainer back into the empty chile-soaking bowl.

Without washing the blender jar, scrape the tomatillo mixture into it. Add 1 cup water, along with the cinnamon, black pepper, anise (if you are using it,) cloves, bread, and chocolate. Blend to a smooth purée, again a little extra water if necessary to keep the mixture moving. Press through the strainer back into the tomatillo-mixture bowl.

Check the fat in the pot: if there's more than a light coating over the bottom, pour off the excess; if the pot's pretty dry, film the bottom with a little more lard or oil. Set over medium-high heat. When quite hot, scrape in the chile purée and stir nearly constantly until mixture has darkened considerably and thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Add 6 cups water to the pot and stir to thoroughly combine. Partially cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Check the consistency: the mole should be thick enough to coat a spoon, but not too quickly. If it's too thin, simmer it briskly over medium to medium-high heat until a little thicker; if too thick, stir in a little water.

Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 3/4 tablespoons, and the sugar (if you're new to seasoning mole, keep in mind that it's a delicate balance of salty, sweet, and spicy; it's best to start with the minimum quantities suggested, then refine the seasoning just before serving).

Ladle a generous amount of mole around the tamales and sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds. Decorate the platter with sprigs of parsley or watercress.


These recipes were provided by participating chefs and have not been tested by The James Beard Foundation.