It may take a few tries to figure out how much dough and filling your parchment can hold. Follow these guidelines and remember that even the ones that look less than perfect will still taste delicious. You’ll have some leftover braised pork shoulder, which can be frozen for future tamales or eaten in taco shells with any remaining toppings. The pork braise gets better as it rests in the refrigerator.
Braised Guajillo Pork Tamales with Tomatillo Pico de Gallo & Pineapple-Nopales Salsa
For the guajillo pork filling
- 3-1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
- 1-1/2 Tbs. ground cumin
- 1 Tbs. granulated garlic
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground Mexican cinnamon
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups unsalted chicken broth
- 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 10 dry seeded guajillo chiles, about 2 oz.
- 1/2 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
For the tamale dough and assembly
- 2 cups low-salt chicken broth, warmed
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups masa harina, more as needed
- 3-1/2 oz. (about 1/2 cup) softened lard, cut into small pieces
- 35 pitted Kalamata olives (about 1 scant cup)
- 3/4 cup golden raisins
- 28 5 x 8-inch parchment pieces (or corn husk tamale wrappers, soaked in water to soften)
For the pineapple-nopales salsa
- 1 cup medium dice pineapple, about 5 oz.
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion, about 3 oz.
- 3/4 cup small dice cleaned cactus paddles (nopales), about 3 oz.
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped lightly packed cilantro
- 1-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
For the tomatillo pico de gallo
- 12 oz. small fresh tomatillos, about 5 to 6, husked, rinsed, and quartered
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1/2 fresh serrano chili seeded and coarsely chopped, more to taste
- 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- Kosher salt
Make the filling
- Put the pork chunks in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, granulated garlic, 1 Tbs. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture over the pork, tossing until well coated.
- In a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil on medium heat until it shimmers. Add the pork all at once, spreading it evenly on the bottom of the pot. Let cook, undisturbed until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Toss with a wooden spoon, spread in an even layer, and continue to cook undisturbed for another 3 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan until the liquid is mostly evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and the oregano. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, with the cover slightly cracked and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender but not falling apart, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and let the pork cool in its juices while you prepare the guajillo sauce.
- Bring 4 to 5 cups of water to a boil. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet or griddle on high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chilies to lightly toast, turning occasionally with tongs, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chilies to a medium heat-proof bowl, cover with the boiled water, and let soak until the chilies are very soft, about 35 minutes. Remove the chilies from the water, scrape the flesh from the skin (discard the skin) and transfer to a blender with the onion, garlic, the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth, and 1 tsp. salt. Puree until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the bowl occasionally.
- When the pork is cool, transfer the chunks from the broth with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, leaving behind as much of the liquid as possible. Shred the pork with your fingers or two forks. Add 2/3 to 1 cup of the guajillo sauce to the pork, mixing until well combined (you will have extra sauce; reserve it for serving with the tamales, if you like). Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Make the tamale dough
- In a large bowl, mix the broth, milk, baking powder, and salt. Slowly start adding the masa harina to the bowl, mixing with your hands until it comes together, is smooth and without lumps. Add lard, kneading with your hands until fully combined. The dough should be slightly sticky, yet firm. If the dough is too wet add more masa harina, 1 Tbs. at a time; don’t make it too dry. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for about 5 minutes.
Assemble the tamales
- Position a piece of parchment in front of you (portrait orientation) on a work surface. Put about 1-1/2 Tbs. dough in the center of the parchment. Put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Using your fingers, press the dough through the wrap into a 6 x 4 oval. Break one olive into pieces with your fingers and scatter over the dough, along with 4 to 5 raisins. Put about 1-1/2 Tbs. of the pork mixture to cover the raisins and olives leaving about 1/2-inch border on all sides. Fold the parchment over the filling, pressing the edges of the dough together lightly to seal in the filling on all sides. Fold the sides, top and bottom of the parchment over the tamale dough to create a seal, but don’t fold too tightly since the tamales will expand when steamed. (At this point you can wrap the tamales individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month. Unwrap but do not defrost them before cooking).
Make the pineapple-nopales salsa
- Heat a large cast iron skillet on high heat. When the pan smokes slightly, add the pineapple in a single layer in batches, if necessary, and sear until charred in places, tossing occasionally, about 1 minute. Remove to a plate to cool.
- When cool, toss the pineapple in a large bowl with the other ingredients and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Season with more salt to taste just before serving.
Make the tomatillo pico de gallo
- In a blender, puree the tomatillos, garlic, serrano, cilantro, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbs. water until mostly smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the blender as necessary. Season to taste with more salt just before serving.
Steam the tamales and serve
- Fill a large pot fitted with a steamer basket with enough water to just touch the bottom of the insert. Line the bottom of the steamer with the remaining parchment. (All of the steamer holes do not need to be covered.) Arrange the tamales upright in the steamer, filling any spaces with crinkled-up foil, if necessary, to keep the tamales standing. (Be sure not to pack them too tightly.) Cover the pot with the lid, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and steam until the filling easily pulls away from the parchment, about 1 hour.
- Divide the tamales between 8 plates and serve with the pineapple-nopales salsa, tomatillo pico de gallo, and the remaining guajillo sauce, if desired.