Today I was remembering how 8 years ago I sent my friend Nora a picture of my “Tamales with Black Beans,” and she asked me for the recipe. I simply said: “Oh, it’s really easy, just mix the corn flour, lard, and beans, and that’s it!” How vague, right? I didn’t even think about measurements or directions, because when you’ve been cooking for decades without depending on recipe books, that is the way you do it. So, long story short, I never sent her an actual recipe, but knowing that she is a good cook, I’m sure she figured it out by herself.
These unique and delicious black bean and pork crackling tamales are a traditional recipe from the state of Tabasco. They are usually flavored with the addition of “Hoja Santa” a very aromatic leaf used for cooking in several states of Mexico. I didn’t add it this time, but if you find it either fresh or in the dried version, add a little piece of it to each of the tamales.
This recipe makes 12 Tamales
- 2 cups of corn flour – masa harina*
- 2 cups black beans, cooked with garlic, onion and epazote
- 2 cups of pork cracklings**
- 1 cup of lard
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- salt to season
- 16 pieces of banana leaves (about 10 inches each)
- For these tamales you need to use the corn flour especially for tortillas.
- If you don’t have cooked beans, you can use canned beans with its broth. But you will need to season them or fry them with onion and garlic.
- You can substitute the pork crackling for diced pork meat.
1. In a large bowl, beat the lard, either by hand or using an electric mixer until if changes to a whiter color.
2. Add the corn flour and mix well. Before adding the pork cracklings, place them inside a plastic bag, and using a kitchen mallet or wooden rolling pin, slightly smash them. And add them to the dough mix. Then, stir in the black beans, and with your hands or a wooden spoon, mix them with the corn dough
3. Once you have the corn flour, lard, beans and pork crackling integrated, slowly pour the chicken broth to the mixture. Mix using your mixer or with your hands, now taste to check if it needs salt. Season with salt if needed. Since the beans and pork cracklings are already seasoned, you have to be careful when adding salt. Remember that steaming the tamales reduces a little bit of the saltiness. Your dough will look a little bit like cookie dough when ready.
4. To prepare the banana leaves for wrapping the tamales, first you need to remove the ribs of the banana leaves using some kitchen scissors, cut the leaves into pieces. To soften them, we will place them, one by one, over an open flame on your stove. The shiny side of the leaf will be facing down, and at the contact with the flame, the upper side will start changing to a bright green color. Make sure you move the leaf all over to soften it completely. Once all the leaves are ready, rinse them with warm water to clean, and pat dry with a paper towel.
5. To form the tamales, Place 4 tablespoons of the dough mixture in the center of the banana leaf, if you are using the Hoja Santa, add a little piece on top of the dough. Wrap the tamal, fold first one side to the center, and the other side towards the center, and do the same process with the ends of the banana leaf in order to form a small rectangular package.
6. Place already formed tamales into Tamal Steamer or big pot. If you don’t have a Tamal Steamer, you can improvise, by placing large pieces of crinkled aluminum foil at the bottom of the pot, and then adding some of the leftover banana leaves or ribs to form a barrier to avoid contact with the bottom of the pot.
7. Add 2 1/2 cups of hot water to the pot, cover the tamales with more banana leaves or with aluminum foil. Place the lid and cook and medium heat for one hour and 15 minutes. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving, to allow the tamales to cool down, and the dough to firm up. These tamales are usually served with a tomato sauce. Cook 1 large tomato and 2 habanero peppers until soft, discard cooking water, place tomatoes and peppers in your blender, process until smooth, season with salt.