My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Guilty Tamale Pie 1

Posted on December 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

So I really meant to tell you about my Thanksgiving prep, CrankyReaders.

There were the turkeys that the fabulous Paula slaughtered (humanely) on the Sunday before, and there was my quest to find someone who would rotisserie a turkey for us.   But there were articles and deadlines and work and I had to go teach 6th graders about death at church and 2nd graders about seeds at the boys’ school.  And then I was tired.

Plus I got a cold.

But what kind of food blogger doesn’t write about food at Thanksgiving?  Like the brine I was planning.  The pies.  How it was a mixed sort of bag that the boys would be with their dad.

So then there was guilt, and then it was Thanksgiving itself.  Sara had wanted to roast a turkey so she’d have the house smelling like it should, and I was still stuck with the rotisserie obsession.  We had a very pleasant stand-off that resulted in two birds – 43 pounds – for eight of us.

There were more leftovers than usual, which around here wasn’t a problem.   And though I don’t feel like it’s necessary to transform leftovers into something unrecognizable, I liked the sound of a Thanksgiving tamale I had heard about on the radio the day before, involving sage in the dough and a turkey filling.  But I just didn’t feel like rolling all those tamales, and so I turned it into a couple of tamale casseroles that were so very delicious.  I doubled it and made one vegetarian with sweet potato in the dough and a filling of shredded cheese, and one with plain masa and sweet potato and turkey filling.   But you should – as always – use what you’ve got.

Tamale Pie

1.  Combine in a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer until very light and fluffy:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 2 cups lukewarm broth (or salted water if you’re caught without)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, or lard if you like
  • (I added 1 c. mashed sweet potatoes to the vegetarian ones)

Combine masa, broth, baking powder, salt, and oil in a large bowl, Mix together until dough has the consistency of soft paste. Cover & let rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature so the dough can thoroughly absorb the moist ingredients.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press half of the tamale dough into the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Press the mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides.

3.  Spread your choice of fillings evenly across.

  • 1 1/2 c. – 2 c. finely chopped turkey, chicken or other meat
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked and drained vegetables
  • 2 c. shredded cheese
  • 1 c. chopped green chiles

The top layer of masa is hard to get on too neatly.  The best method was to use both hands to create sort of patties to place side by side on the top.

4.   Put an inch or so of hot water in a baking pan that will accommodate the casserole,  Place, covered, in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the masa is soft but set.  Remove from oven, let sit for five minutes and serve.

And now: back to work.

Tamales Two Ways 3

Posted on January 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

Why you might like to make your own tamales:

  • You can put any filling you want in them.
  • They’re gluten-free.
  • You can find masa harina and corn husks at most grocery stores or food stores now, if you’re not lucky enough to live near Mexican markets.
  • They can be vegetarian if you substitute some shortening (organic, non-hydrogenated, palm oil variety if you please) for the lard.
  • Alternately, they can be a mad-cap excuse to cook with lard.  When’s the last time you got to do that?  (Here’s what the inimitable Zarela Martinez has to say about lard; and other experts quoted on the subject.)
  • A hand-held beater or stand-mixer make the prep nearly effortless.
  • They’re so damn good.

Last night we had two gluten-free friends and a vegetarian friend over for dinner.  I whined a little bit about having to come up with a menu to accommodate everyone, but I remembered the masa harina in the back of the cupboard, came across a couple of frozen smoked pork chops from Boucher Family Farm,  and off we went.

Green Chile & Cheese Tamales plus Pork & Green Chile Tamales
Adapted from Zarela Martinez
Makes about 24

  • 5 c. masa harina (Want GMO-free masa?  Try Bob’s Red Mill.)
  • 3 – 4 c. warm chicken or vegetarian broth
  • 1 lb. lard or organic, non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1 1/2 T. kosher salt
  • 25-28 dried corn husks, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes-1 hr.
  • 2 c. chopped mild green chiles, divided
  • 1 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 c. leftover pork chops, cooked & cooled thick-cut bacon, or any leftover meat
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 T. flavorful salsa
  • 1/2 t. chipotle or chili powder
  1. Place masa in a large bowl.  With a wooden spoon, beat in just enough broth to make a smooth dough, about as soft  and pliable as bread dough.
  2. In the bowl of a stand-mixer, or in a separate large bowl, beat the lard or shortening until very, very light, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer still on, beat in the masa a large scoop at a time, scraping down the sides as necessary.   If the mixture becomes too stiff, slowly add in a bit  more broth.  Beat until mixture resembles a fluffy frosting.  Beat in salt.
  3. Mix together 1 c. chiles and cheese in one medium bowl.
  4. Mix together remaining chiles, pork, garlic, salsa, and chili in a separate medium bowl.
  5. Remove corn husks from water.  Find smaller ones and tear about 24 wide strips, which you’ll use to tie the tamales shut.
  6. Place in front of you with narrower side facing you.  Place approximately 1/4 c. masa lengthwise inside the husk, flattened slightly.  Put rounded tablespoon of filling lengthwise across middle and press in with back of spoon.  Fold the top and bottom ends (those closest to and farthest from you) in.  Fold in the sides, making sure you completely wrap the filling.  If you need to take a piece off another one to cover any openings, that’s okay.  Tie a strip around the middle to keep shut.  Repeat for all, keeping meat and vegetarian separate if it matters to you.
  7. Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer, or a pot into which you can fit a steamer insert.  Place tamales in steamer, and cook for about an hour, until the masa is firm to the touch.  (I always have to open one to be sure.)  Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

You don’t need to have much else with these.  We had some beer and a salad with romaine, slivered mango, red onion, and spicy pumpkin seeds with a simple vinaigrette.  Perfect.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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