Turkey Tamales with Mole Negro Recipe

  • Banana leaves for wrapping, thawed if frozen (see Tips, below)
  • 2 turkey drumsticks or 1 thigh and drumstick
  • 1 small onion, unpeeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups mole negro, made by blending 1/2 cup Teotitlán-Style Black Mole paste with 1 cup chicken stock (see Tips, below)
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) lard (preferably home-rendered; see Tips, below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) coarse-ground fresh masa, homemade or bought from a supplier, or reconstituted masa made by mixing 2 1/4 cups masa harina with 1 3/4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade) or water (see Tips, below)
  1. Have ready a steamer arrangement.
  2. Remove the banana leaves from the package; gently unfold and wipe clean with a clean damp cloth. With kitchen scissors, cut out eight 12 X 10-inch rectangles. Tear off long thin strips from the remaining leaves to serve as “string” ties for the packets. Set aside.
  3. Place the turkey pieces in a medium-size saucepan with the onion, garlic, peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Add enough water to cover (about 4 cups) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partly covered, until the meat is falling off the bones, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the turkey pieces from the broth (which can be strained and saved for another purpose); when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and tear the meat into long shreds. You should have about 2 cups. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the mole to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the shredded turkey. Set aside.
  5. Place the lard in a mixing bowl or the large bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed. With a wooden spoon or the mixer blades, beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until somewhat aerated. Begin beating in the masa a handful at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. At this point you must make a judgment call — whether or not to add a little liquid. The consistency should be that of a very thick, pasty porridge. When working with masa made from masa harina I sometimes find that I need to add 5 to 6 tablespoons of water or chicken stock to achieve this consistency. With other batches, I don't need to add any liquid. When the desired consistency is reached, beat in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  6. Prepare the banana-leaf packets. Briefly hold each of the cut rectangles over an open flame to make them more pliable, or place for a few seconds on a hot griddle. Stack them by the work surface. Place a heaping 1/2-cup dollop of the masa mixture on each. With the back of a spoon, flatten out the masa slightly into an oval shape. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the turkey mole-filling over the masa.
  7. Fold over the right and left edges of one rectangle toward each other, overlapping slightly. Fold the top and bottom edges toward each other. You should have a neat flat packet (usually about 5 X 4 inches if you start with a 14 X 11-inch rectangle). Tie securely with leaf “string” ties.
  8. Place in the steamer. Banana-leaf tamales should lie on a flat platform such as a wire rack raised well above the level of the boiling water. Arrange them in layers as necessary, seam side up. Place some extra banana-leaf pieces on top to help absorb steam. Pour boiling water into the bottom of the pan to a depth of 1 to 2 inches, cover tightly, and steam over medium heat for 1 hour. Keep a kettle of water hot on another burner; occasionally check the water level in the steamer and replenish as necessary, always shielding your face from the steam. When they are done, remove the lid and let the tamales stand for 10 minutes before serving. Each guest unwraps his own.