Christmas eve tamales

Christmas Eve tamales were a success!

Growing up in El Paso I was always able to count on one thing being there to eat, tamales. While my family didn’t make a tradition of making them each year, we always received them as a gift from family and friends. Many of my friends’ families would spend Christmas eve, or the days before, making tamales for post-midnight mass celebrations. Having stayed in Michigan this year Val and I decided to bring a little tradition into our home and make our own tamales.

We’ve made tamales before, and for the most part followed this basic recipe for the masa. The only difference this time around is I used 2 cups of veggie stock, real butter, and I nixed the green chile powder. For the fillings we made three different varieties: chipotle sweet potato; corn, peppers, and cheese; and faux-acoa (vegetarian barbacoa).

Chipotle sweet potato filling

  • 1 tsp (or a little more) chipotle infused olive oil
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato diced (into pieces 1/2-inch or smaller)
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 heaping tsp dried thyme
  • 1 heaping tsp dried mexican oregano
  • 2 tbsp canned chipotles in adobo sauce
  • salt

Par-boil, or quick cook in the microwave, the sweet potato. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat up. Add the red onions and cook until translucent. Add the par-boiled sweet potatoes, chipotle powder, thyme, and oregano. Cook until potatoes begin to brown. Salt to your taste preference. Set aside. Puree the canned chipotles, you can use either a food processor or just chop into a puree. Set that aside as well. When making the tamales place a large spoonful of the sweet potato mixture in the masa then drizzle or spread some of the chipotle puree on top. Wrap the tamale.

Faux-acoa filling

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 package of chorizo seitan (we use Uptons) diced
  • 1 package of Rick Bayless’ Red Chile Barbacoa sauce (or make your own sauce)

I was a bit lazy on this one because the task of making 3 different fillings plus the tamales was a bit daunting. But none the less it worked quite well. Heat up a skillet to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the chorizo seitan and cook for another minute or two, until the seitan heats up. Add about three quarters of a package of the barbacoa sauce and let cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. I didn’t add a full package because I didn’t want the mix to be to wet when putting it into the tamale. Add a large spoonful of the filling on top of the masa and wrap the tamale.

Chiles, cheese, and corn filling

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded queso asedero (Queso Chihuahua or Monterey Jack will work too)

Roast the poblano peppers using whatever method you wish. I roasted them in the skillet over medium heat until they browned. Once browned, place into a paper bag for about 30-minutes or longer. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, stem, and deseed them. Dice them and set aside. Drain and rinse the corn. Heat a skillet to medium. Once hot add the butter, corn, and green chile powder. Cook until corn starts to brown. Add the chiles. Set aside. When making the tamales place some cheese and some of the chile and corn mixture into the tamale and wrap it up.

Sauce

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 medium tomatoes on the vine (cored and deseeded, cut into slices)
  • 1 heaping tsp new mexico red chile powder
  • 1 large roasted jalapeño minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (rinsed)
  • salt

Pan roast the jalapeño and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions sweat. Add the red chile powder and cook for an additional minute or so. Add the slices of tomatoes and cook until they either start to brown or fall apart. Put tomato mixture into a food processor. Blend into a sauce like consistency. Add the minced jalapeño. Chop up the cilantro to a size that you like and add into the mixture. Set aside to serve on top of the tamales.

The tamales

Steam the tamales for an hour. Set aside and let cool for a minute or two. Unwrap and enjoy.

Christmas Eve tamales

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tamales tamales tamales

A few years ago I decided to buy a book on tamales because I was disappointed by the tamale selection here in Southeast Michigan. That is not to say that there are no places to find tamales, and even some good ones, they just aren’t as good as they can be or what I was used to growing up. A few weekends ago I had a little more time on my hand so I decided it was time to dig in and cook some tamales. I made two kinds but the fillings—nopales and roasted poblanos with corn; one would probably be enough for the masa that this makes we had quite a bit of leftovers which made for some delicious quesadillas. The masa recipe is a slightly modified version of Daniel Hoyer’s whipped masa recipe.

Pre-preparation:

  • Several corn husks (about 24 or more)

Soak the corn husks for about an hour or more. They need to be pliable.

The Masa:

  • 3 1/2 cups masa for tamales
  • 2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1 1/4 cups butter @ room temp (I used Earth Balance, we had some vegan friends coming over)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp green chile powder

To make the masa mix the hot water and masa to make a dough. Set aside for about 30 minutes covered. Using a stand mixer whip the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add about 1-inch size pinches of the masa dough at a time, waiting for each one to be incorporated into the mix. Once you’ve added about 1/3 of the masa add some of the veggie stock and then start to alternate adding the masa and veggie stock until both are well incorporated. Add the chile powder and salt, mix until completely combined. You can test the masa mix by seeing if a small pinch floats in water. If it doesn’t add more veggie stock. Set aside until ready to use.

For the nopales:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used a chipotle infused one)
  • 3 large nopales (cactus pads) diced
  • 1 jalapeño minced
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tomatoes on the vine cored and deseeded and diced.
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt to taste

Heat a medium pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil; once the oil is heated add the garlic, jalapeño, and onion until they start to sweat. Add the nopales, Mexican oregano and thyme. Cook until nopales begin to soften, it will take a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes begin to soften. Salt to taste. Remove from the pan and set aside.

For the roasted poblanos and corn:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 large poblano peppers
  • 1 small package frozen corn
  • 1 tsp butter (Earth Balance)
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • a sprinkle or two of granulated sugar to bring out/add to the sweetness of the corn
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat an oven to 375. Lightly coat the peppers in olive oil and place in the oven to roast. You’ll roast them until the skin starts to brown and gets puffy. Be sure to flip them at some point in time. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes in our oven to get them nicely roasted. While they roast, heat the corn up in salted water (we used a microwave, but you can use a pot if necessary). Drain and set aside. Once roasted put them in a brown paper bag to steam. Steam for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, and then core and deseed. I usually like a little heat so I leave a few seeds in. Dice the peppers and mix in with the corn. Add the butter and green chile powder, mix until the butter is melted and well combined. Salt to taste. (Note you can add some good asadero cheese to this mix when you spoon it onto the tamale if you’d like (I did), or add some nu-yeast for a cheesy flavor (I did that for our vegan friends))

Putting it all together:

Prepare a pot or some sort of apparatus for steaming. Grab a well soaked corn husk, towel off excess moisture. In the upper half of it spoon some of the masa onto the husk and spread it about 1/4″ thick. Cover about 2/3rds of the top half starting from the center. Scoop a good spoonful or two of one of the fillings into the center of the masa. Fold/roll over the edges of the corn husk to form a tube. Fold the bottom half over the top half. Tie the tamale. Set aside. Once you have made all of your tamales place them in the steamer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Once finished remove from steamer and let rest for about 10-15 minutes. Serve however you want. We topped ours with some homemade salsa (below) and guacamole.

Extra special bonus green salsa:

  • 1+ tsp of olive oil
  • 4-5 medium to large tomatillos
  • 1/2 purple onion finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 2/3 cup cilantro chopped
  • salt to taste

Lightly coat the jalapeño and tomatillos in the oil. Place in a pan over medium heat. Roast until the tops, bottoms, sides (if they will stay on their side) brown and become soft. Set aside to cool. Core the tomatillos. Remove the stem of the jalapeño, deseed if you desire, and mince. In a food processor or blender add the tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeño, and lime juice. Blend to a consistency you like (best to pulse blend if you have that option). Add salt and cilantro. Serve.

 

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