Roasted Pork Tamales – A Dish Not To Be Taken Lightly

There are some dishes that for one reason or another I have never thought to try at a restaurant, let alone try making at home. Tamales were one of these. I’m embarrassed to admit the main reason I did not want to even consider this dish was because I couldn’t fathom eating corn husks. Why in the world anyone would think corn husks were meant to be eaten, I could not figure out. Okay, so maybe we live a sheltered life, but come on, corn husks!

Yes, I was a bit ignorant about the purpose of the whole corn husk thing, but I know I am not alone here. Ignorance runs rampant in our house. Hubby too thought that the whole corn husk thing was a bit weird, and he will try practically anything.

Well, while flipping through the channels a few weeks back, I happened upon a demonstration of how to make tamales. After watching the preparation and subsequent serving of authentic tamales, I felt pretty stupid. How was I to know that you removed the corn husks before serving, or at the very least before eating? In retrospect it all seems pretty silly now, but I can’t believe Hubby and I are the only ones who have been mislead by the corn husk wrapping.

Roasted Pork Tamales

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  • 5-7 Pound Pork Butt Roast, boneless
  • 12 Cups Chicken Broth or Stock
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Onion Sliced
  • 2 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Chili Powder
  • 5 tsp. Cumin
  • 3 Cloves Fresh Garlic
  • ¾ tsp. Sugar
  • 24 Dried Corn Husks

Combine chicken stock, onion, and spices in large roasting pan. Stir to combine. Place pork roast in roasting pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake in oven 5 – 7 hours at 300. Remove roast from oven every couple hours to flip and baste.

When roast is falling apart, remove from oven and let rest. At this point you can either set the roast aside until the next day to prepare the tamales or when the roast is cool enough to handle continue on.

Note: All of the recipes I found on the internet called for boiling the pork roast on the stove for an hour or so and then proceeding. In my experience, roasting a pork butt slowly in the oven results in the tenderest, juiciest shredded pork you’ll ever hope to find. If you are pressed for time or just impatient, the boiling method might be more of what you are looking for, but I cannot guarantee how easily the meat will shred.

Soak the corn husks in a bowl of hot water. Top the husks with a plate to keep them submerged and let stand for at least 1 hour.

Remove roast from pan. The roast should be so tender that it comes out in pieces. Shred the roast, removing any fat and set aside.

Strain the liquid from the roasting pan, reserving all of it.

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Place shredded pork in a large fry pan along with 3 cups of the reserved liquid. Bring mixture to a boil. Combine 8 tablespoons of flour with ¾ cup water and mix until smooth. Slowly add this to the pork mixture to thicken the sauce. Turn heat to low and allow meat to simmer while you prepare the dough.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups Instant Corn Masa Mix
  • 3 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Cup Fresh Corn Oil
  • 2 ½ Cups Chicken Broth or Reserved broth from Roasting Pan (you need to make sure you have at least 4 cups of reserved broth for the sauce, so if you do not have enough, chicken broth is fine)

Combine the masa, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl.

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Add the corn oil and mix thoroughly with your hands.

Next add the chicken or reserved broth ½ cup at a time to the dough and mix with hands.

Continue adding broth and mixing with your hands until the dough is the consistency of cookie dough.

It will be a little sticky and should be able to be spread with a knife.

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To assemble:

Drain the corn husks and pat dry. Starting ½ inch from the wide end, spread about ¼ cup of the dough down a husk, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Be sure that the pointy end of the husk is free of dough, for easy folding.

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Spoon ¼ Cup pork filling down the center of the dough.

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Fold in the sides of the husk so the ends of the mesa meet.

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Continue rolling and then fold over the end.

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When all the tamales are made, place them in a steamer basket with the pointy ends at the bottom and the open ends at the top.

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Add enough water to the bottom of the steamer pan so the water doesn’t touch the tamales. Place steaming basket in pot, cover tamales with a damp cotton towel and cover with lid.

Bring the water to a boil and the turn heat to low. Simmer/steam for 1 ½ hours. Check the water level in the bottom of the steamer often to make sure the water does not run dry.

When tamales are done, remove steamer from pan and set on a dry towel to cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove tamales from pan with tongs and carefully remove corn husks by unwrapping slowly. The masa should be firm and not mushy. If you undo the first one and the masa is still mushy, rewrap, place steaming basket back in pot and continue steaming for 15 – 20 minutes more.

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For the 7 pound roast I used, I had to make 1 ½ recipes of the dough to assemble approximately 24 tamales. I do warn you, this was a time-consuming project. Although the roasting of the meat is somewhat hands-off/cooking time, the shredding and preparation of the meat, mixing of the dough, and tamale assembly took me about 4 hours.

This was a two-day project for me. I won’t say I will never make these again because of the time it took me, but this is definitely not a meal I will be making more than a few times a year. As it was, we ate about seven tamales between the four of us for dinner and I froze the rest. That means I have at least two meals frozen, so all the time spent if broken down per meal, is really not that long.

To serve:

There are many options for serving tamales. You can top with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomato, green pepper, onion, and of course tamale or enchilada sauce. Seeing as I had nearly two hours to kill while the tamales steamed, I opted to make three different sauces and get the families responses before finalizing anything for this recipe. You can check them out in my post: Tamale Sauces Explored in Tilly’s Test Kitchen, coming soon.

I am so glad I finally opened my mind and gave this dish a try. Hubby absolutely loved it, as did the kids. As for me, I think I’ll enjoy it more the next time I make it from the frozen tamales, because by the time I served these, I was exhausted and tired of smelling them.

I ate about two bites, which I admit were quite good, but I wasn’t able to appreciate these because of the stress and anxiety that consumed me from worrying about whether or not they were going to turn out and all the hours spent on my feet at the kitchen counter. Next time for sure. At least everyone else thought it was one of the best Mexican meals I’ve ever made, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Shredded Pork Tamales

  • Servings: Approximately 24 tamales
  • Print

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Ingredients

  • 5-7 Pound Pork Butt Roast, boneless
  • 12 Cups Chicken Broth or Stock
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Onion Sliced
  • 2 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Chili Powder
  • 5 tsp. Cumin
  • 3 Cloves Fresh Garlic
  • ¾ tsp. Sugar
  • 24 Dried Corn Husks

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken stock, onion, and spices in large roasting pan. Stir to combine. Place pork roast in roasting pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake in oven 5 – 7 hours at 300. Remove roast from oven every couple hours to flip and baste.
  2. When roast is falling apart, remove from oven and let rest. At this point you can either set the roast aside until the next day to prepare the tamales or when the roast is cool enough to handle continue on. Note: All of the recipes I found on the internet called for boiling the pork roast on the stove for an hour or so and then proceeding. In my experience, roasting a pork butt slowly in the oven results in the tenderest, juiciest shredded pork you’ll ever hope to find. If you are pressed for time or just impatient, the boiling method might be more of what you are looking for, but I cannot guarantee how easily the meat will shred.
  3. Soak the corn husks in a bowl of hot water. Top the husks with a plate to keep them submerged and let stand for at least 1 hour.
  4. Remove roast from pan. The roast should be so tender that it comes out in pieces. Shred the roast, removing any fat and set aside.
  5. Strain the liquid from the roasting pan, reserving all of it.
  6. Place shredded pork in a large fry pan along with 3 cups of the reserved liquid. Bring mixture to a boil. Combine 8 tablespoons of flour with ¾ cup water and mix until smooth. Slowly add this to the pork mixture to thicken the sauce. Turn heat to low and allow meat to simmer while you prepare the dough.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups Instant Corn Mesa Mix
  • 3 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Cup Fresh Corn Oil
  • 2 ½ Cups Chicken Broth or Reserved broth from Roasting Pan (you need to make sure you have at least 4 cups of reserved broth for the sauce, so if you do not have enough, chicken broth is fine)

Directions:

  1. Combine the masa, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl. Add the corn oil and mix thoroughly with your hands. Next add the chicken or reserved broth ½ cup at a time to the dough. Continue adding broth and mixing with your hands until the dough is the consistency of cookie dough. It will be a little sticky and should be able to be spread with a knife.
  2. To assemble: Drain the corn husks and pat dry. Starting ½ inch from the wide end, spread about ¼ cup of the dough down a husk, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Be sure that the pointy end of the husk is free of dough, for easy folding. Spoon ¼ Cup pork filling down the center of the dough, then fold in the sides of the husk so the ends of the mesa meet. Continue rolling and then fold over the end.
  3. When all the tamales are made, place them in a steamer basket with the pointy ends at the bottom and the open ends at the top.
  4. Add enough water to the bottom of the steamer pan so the water doesn’t touch the tamales. Place steaming basket in pot, cover tamales with a damp cotton towel and cover with lid.
  5. Bring the water to a boil and the turn heat to low. Simmer/steam for 1 ½ hours. Check the water level in the bottom of the steamer often to make sure the water does not run dry.
  6. When tamales are done, remove steamer from pan and set on a dry towel to cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove tamales from pan with tongs and carefully remove corn husks by unwrapping slowly. The masa should be firm and not mushy. If you undo the first one and the masa is still mushy, rewrap, place steaming basket back in pot and continue steaming for 15 – 20 minutes more.

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