YIELD: 12 SERVINGS
SWEET CHERRY ANCHO RELISH:4½ dry ancho peppers
1½ lbs. frozen sweet cherries
3 cups carrots, diced
3 cups corn
3 bunches scallions
4½ Tbsps. vegetable oil
DUCK MEAT AND SPICES:4 qts. chicken stock
6 legs duck (2 lb. average)
2 lbs. cherry hardwood bacon
¼ cup corn oil
¼ cup rendered bacon fat (from the 2 lbs. bacon above)
3 Tbsps. garlic powder
1½ Tbsps. ground cumin
4 Tbsps. dark chili powder
½ Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. table salt
MASA AND SPICES:2 lb. bag corn masa
3 Tbsps. sea salt
½ Tbsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsps. dark chili powder
3 Tbsps. paprika
3 Tbsps. garlic powder
2 cups corn oil
24 corn shucks (husks)
1 bunch fresh chives
1. For the relish: Slice open peppers, remove seeds and toast on griddle until you see light wisps of smoke. Place peppers in water and soak until they become fleshy (about 30 minutes). Remove and scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon; reserve flesh and discard skin. Slack sweet cherries to room temperature and drain in a colander, reserving liquid. In sauté pan over medium high heat, cook carrots, corn and scallions in vegetable oil until fork tender. Add peppers and evenly combine. Add sweet cherries and half their liquid. Bring to boil and simmer until it thickens. Reserve to serve with tamales.
2. For the duck: Bring chicken stock to a boil and cook duck legs for 40-60 minutes. Allow legs to cook slightly; reserve stock for the masa. Cut bacon strips into 2-in. pieces and then render (not too crispy); reserve rendered bacon fat. Reserve 1 cup cooked bacon for garnish. Remove skin from duck legs and discard; pull off duck meat and shred it.
3. Mix ¼ cup corn oil, ¼ cup rendered bacon fat, and duck spices (garlic powder through table salt) in sauté pan and warm over low heat (do not cook). Pour warmed mixture over duck and remaining bacon in a medium bowl; toss until completely coated. Refrigerate duck mixture until ready to fill tamales.
4. For the masa: Bring reserved stock to warm temperature over low heat (do not boil). Place masa in a separate, large bowl and mix in masa spices (sea salt through garlic powder) until fully incorporated. Add 2 cups of corn oil and begin to slowly work in 2 qts. of stock, about 1 cup at a time, working mixture by hand to make the dough. (If mixture is too dry, continue to add broth 1 cup at a time until it is spreadable like thick peanut butter; if it is too thin, add more masa.)
5. Soak corn shucks in warm water for 1 hour or until soft. Carefully separate and pat shucks with paper towel. Fill each with ½ cup of masa mixture. Cover the bottom ⅔ of each shuck, leaving uncovered the top ⅓ and ½-in. along one side. Lay shucks out on sheet pan or cutting board as you go. Evenly cover the masa with about 2-3 Tbsps. of seasoned bacon and duck mixture. Starting on the side where the masa goes to the edge, roll the tamales all the way to the opposite side and fold the empty part over the top like an envelope, leaving tamales flap side folded under (you may flatten tamales, if desired, at this point).
6. Cook tamales fold-side down, packed horizontally in a steamer, maintaining about 3 cups of water for 45 to 90 minutes, or until the masa is just firm and not raw (do not allow water to boil away). When done, remove tamales and cool on sheet pan or serve immediately. Chill or freeze finished tamales in plastic wrap for later use (may be reheated in a steamer or microwave).
7. Blanch 1 bunch fresh chives, then use as ribbons for tying around each tamale. TO SERVE: Sprinkle each plate with reserved crushed bacon. Add 2 tamales and garnish with cherry ancho relish.
Recipe and photo from Jones Dairy Farm/National Sweet Cherry Growers Industry Foundation.