Category: Winter Holidays


Cheese and Green Chile Tamales

Green Chile Cheese Tamales

You’ll love this combination of roasted green chiles and luscious rich cheese. It’s amazing that all it takes is a great cheese and a great salsa to make a terrific tamale. This recipe can be split up by preparing the stuffing a day in advance.

Makes 12 to 16 tamales


1 pound ground masa for tamales
1/2 pound lard, clarified butter or vegetable shortening
4 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded*
1/3 cup Tomatillo Salsa, see recipe
1 cup chicken stock, cold or at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons salt

Place the masa and lard or other shortening in separate containers in the freezer for 30 to 40 minutes, until cold but not frozen.

Combine the roasted poblanos and tomatillo salsa in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth and set aside.  Mix together the chicken stock, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

When the masa is cold enough, empty into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer with a paddle.  Beat on medium speed until the masa is light in texture, 5 to 7 minutes.  Turn the speed up to medium-high and drizzle in the chicken stock mixture.

Remove the lard or other fat from the freezer.  Turn the mixer speed up to high, add 1 tablespoon of the fat at a time, making sure each spoonful is incorporated before making the next addition.  Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 15 minutes total.  Test for lightness by dropping 1 tablespoon of masa into cold water:  If it floats, the mixture is light enough.  If not, continue beating at high speed a few minutes longer.  Add the pureed chile mixture to the masa, and mix well to combine.  Reserve at room temperature.


8 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced*
1/2 cup Tomatillo Salsa, plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon salt
3 packages dried corn husks, separated and soaked in hot water at least 2 hours or overnight
1 1/2 pounds panela cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
To make the stuffing, mix together the poblanos, 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa, and salt.

To make the tamales, spread 1 large or 2 small softened corn husks on a counter, with the narrow end pointing away from you.  Leaving about 2 inches bare at the top, spread a 1/2-inch layer of masa over the center and one side of the husk.  Divide the poblano mixture evenly and sprinkle over the portion of masa in the center of the husk.  Top the chiles with some of the cubed cheese.

Fold the side covered with masa over the chiles and cheese, and then fold over the other side to enclose.  Fold down the top flap.  Place the folded tamale on a large square of aluminum foil and wrap to enclose.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Line a steamer or a pot fitted with a rack with corn husks.  Cook over simmering water 45 minutes, or until the corn husks can be pulled away from the masa without sticking.  Serve hot with Tomatillo Salsa.


Guatemalan Tamales

Guatemalan Tamales

In these succulent Guatemalan tamales, fluffy masa is enriched with raisins, olives, chiles and a generous helping of romesco sauce. Soft, fragrant banana leaves, available in Latin markets, are the typical tamale wrapper in the southern Mexican states and Central America. Add shredded roasted chicken and these tamales would make a delightful holiday meal.

Makes 8 tamales


3 1/2 cups masa harina*
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups water, hot
10 ounces vegetable shortening (by weight), cold
1 cup vegetable broth, cold


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 poblano chiles, roasted, cored, seeded, and cut into strips**
2 red bell peppers, roasted, cored, seeded, and cut into strips**
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup pitted green olives, sliced
8 9-inch squares banana leaf, center stalk removed
8 10-inch squares aluminum foil
Romesco Sauce (see recipe below), for serving
Crema or crème fraiche, for serving (optional)

Combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer with a paddle. Add hot water and beat on medium speed until the masa mixture is crumbly. Turn the speed up to medium-high and add shortening and vegetable broth a tablespoon at a time, alternating and making sure each spoonful is incorporated before making the next addition. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, about 15 minutes total. Test for lightless by dropping a tablespoon of masa into cold water. If it floats, mixture is light enough. If not, continue beating at high speed a few minutes longer. Reserve at room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add vegetable broth, raisins, poblano chiles, red bell peppers, and oregano and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in olives. Chill.

To assemble tamales, briefly hold each banana leaf square over a low burner to soften and toast. Place banana leaf squares, shiny side up, on top of aluminum foil squares. Spread a thin layer of masa over the center third of each banana leaf. Top with a heaping tablespoon of filling mixture. Fold over the sides and then the ends of the banana leaf to enclose the filling in the masa and then wrap in aluminum foil square.

Stack tamales in a steamer and cook over simmering water 1 hour, or until the masa is just set and pulls away from the banana leaves. Remove and discard the foil and open the tamales, leaving them in the banana leaves for serving. Top with Romesco Sauce and a drizzle of crema, if desired.

* Maseca, masa harina, or corn masa flour, is a dried, powder version of fresh masa. Fresh masa is a wet dough made from dried corn cooked in limewater, soaked overnight, and stoneground. If it is labeled “prepared”, it is combined with lard and other ingredients, but if you can find “unprepared” masa made with only lime-treated corn, it can be substituted for the masa harina and water in this recipe.

** Fresh chiles can be roasted over a gas flame or under the broiler. Keep turning so skin is evenly charred, without burning the flesh. Transfer charred chiles to a closed plastic bag and steam 10 to 15 minutes. Pull off charred skin by hand and dip briefly in water to remove blackened bits. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds, and veins.

Romesco Sauce

6 piquillo peppers, from a jar or can, about 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1/4 cup bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Add piquillo peppers, paprika, and vinegar to a blender and puree. Add almonds, bread crumbs, garlic, and salt and blend until smooth. With motor still running, drizzle in olive oil until a thick sauce forms. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve at room temperature.


Mexican Beef Brisket

Mexican Beef Brisket

Brisket is easy to cook and great to have on hand for a comforting winter meal. The chipotle chiles add a pleasant mouth-tingling sensation that is not at all overpowering. Serve this beef brisket with smashed potatoes for a special holiday supper. It reheats beautifully for sandwiches and weeknight suppers. For sandwiches, reheat thinly sliced beef brisket in its sauce.

Serves 6

3 1/2 pounds beef brisket
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
flour for dredging
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 medium onions, chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled
3 dried chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 quarts chicken stock or water
5 bay leaves
salt to taste
1 cup Pickled Red Onions, (see recipe below), for garnish
4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Sprinkle the brisket with coarse salt and pepper. Dredge in flour to coat and shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat until browned on all sides, and remove. Reduce the heat to moderate and add the carrots and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes longer. Return the meat to the pan along with all the remaining ingredients except the salt and garnishes. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 1/4 hours, or until the meat slips off a fork when pierced.

Lift out the brisket and place on a cutting board. Cover with a damp towel. Pour the broth with the vegetables into a tall container and skim off the layer of fat that rises. Remove and discard the bay leaves and chiles. Pour the broth and vegetables into a blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree until smooth, add salt to taste and strain. Reheat the sauce.

Slice the brisket against the grain and arrange on a platter. Pour the warm sauce over it, sprinkle with pickled onions and sliced scallions and serve.

Pickled Red Onions

Makes 5 1/2 cups

1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon roughly chopped cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 beet, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges

Place the onions in a medium saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Strain and set the onions aside.

Combine all the remaining ingredients in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook 10 minutes. Add the blanched onions and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a container, cover, and refrigerate at least a day before serving. Pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator up to a month.


Tomato Pudding


Photo: Ariana Lindquist

This simple, savory side of baked tomatoes, bread, and cheese is a colorful and comforting addition to the holiday table.

1 (1-lb.) loaf country bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in purée, crushed by hand
1 (16-oz.) can tomato purée

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, place soft bread, brown sugar and melted butter.

Pour out cans of tomato puree and tomato soup into bread mixture. In each empty can, pour about 1 tablespoon of warm water to rinse out the can, then pour water into bread mixture.

Using your hands or a spatula, gently mix everything together until thoroughly combined. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 1 hour. Serve immediately.