Rich Pork And Cornmeal Tamales Recipe

A Mississippi Delta take on a spicy dish.


Pork Rillons:
2 1/2 lb pork belly, cut into 1" cubes
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp curing salt
1 1/2 cup rendered lard or duck fat, plus more as needed
2 cup chicken broth, or as needed
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup cornichons, chopped
1/4 cup cornichon juice
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard 

24 corn husks
3 cup white cornmeal, or more if needed*
3 cup masa
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup rendered lard
6 cup chicken broth, hot
1/2 recipe of Pork Rillons recipe


Pork Rillons: 
Step 1: Season the cubed pork belly with the salt, pepper and curing salt. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Step 2: Heat the oven to 500°F. Put the belly on a roasting rack above a roasting pan. Roast until the belly is nicely browned and caramelized, 20-30 minutes.

Step 3: Lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Remove the rack, tipping the pork cubes into the roasting pan. Add the lard and chicken broth to cover. Cook until the pork is completely tender, about 3 hours.

Step 4: Using a slotted spoon, separate the meat from the braising liquid. Divide the meat into two equal portions; set aside. Put the roasting pan over medium-low heat and simmer the braising liquid until the bubbles come very quickly and most of the liquid has cooked away, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to burn the remaining fat. Remove from the heat and let cool partially.

Step 5: Put half of the pork mixture in a mixing bowl. Using two forks or your hands, finely shred the meat. Stir in the shallots, thyme, parsley, cornichons, juice, lemon juice and mustard. Slowly pour enough of the reduced fat mixture over the shredded pork to make it very juicy. Gently fold in the remaining half of the pork belly, keeping the cubes as intact as possible. Fold in more reduced fat as needed to keep the mixture moist.

Step 6: Line a 9" × 5" loaf pan with a sheet of plastic wrap so that the edges hang over. Use a spatula to transfer the pork mixture to the pan. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate overnight (or for up to 1 week). Slice and serve.

Step 1: Prepare a steamer. Soak the corn husks in hot water until supple, 20 - 30 minutes.

Step 2: Combine the cornmeal, masa and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to work the lard into the cornmeal until the mixture is coarse and pebbly. Stir in the hot broth.

Step 3: To stuff the tamales, drain 1 corn husk at a time and shake off excess water. Put 1?2 cup of the cornmeal mixture in the middle of the husk, spreading it thinly. Put 2 tbsp of the pork, with some of its juice, in the middle of the cornmeal mixture. Roll the husk into a long cylinder, then tie one end closed with kitchen string, and neatly fold the other end closed. Repeat with the remaining cornmeal and pork filling (you should get about 2 dozen).

Step 4: Put the tamales in the steamer vertically, tied-end down, and steam until the cornmeal is firm and the filling is cooked through, 45 minutes. Serve hot.

I've found that various brands of cornmeal thicken differently (some require more moisture than others to firm up). It's important to note that the finished consistency of the tamale dough should be fairly wet, yet thick enough to wrap around the meat filling. If the dough appears too liquidy, stir in a little extra cornmeal until it pulls together and feels right.

See more recipes from Down South.

Reprinted with permission from Down South (2014, Random House Canada).