My friend Gwyneth Doland writes in her book, Tantalizing Tamales: Although we don’t know for sure the exact origin of tamales we can see from pots and carvings that, for the ancient Mayans, tamales were their daily bread. (The word comes from the Nahuatl tamalii and tamal is the correct singular form, but tamale is more common.) Researchers believe it is likely that tamales originated in Mesoamerica and eventually spread throughout Latin America and beyond. As an ancient precursor to fast food, the supremely portable tamale provided satisfying and nutritious meal for people on the go—and it still does. Tamales are a popular menu item in Latin American and Mexican restaurants and market stalls, but for most home cooks, the effort required to prepare tamales (as opposed to tacos or burritos) means they are mostly made on celebration days. Christmas, New Year’s, the Day of the Dead, weddings, birthdays and baptisms are often celebrated with a feast of tamales.
MexGrocer.com is totally on top of the tamale situation, so see their special Tamale Section, here.
Grilled Green Chile Cheese Tamales with Avocado Cream
Here’s one of the most unusual tamale recipes you will ever find, and your first thought will be: Oh no, not a grilled tamale! But it works–if you can keep the corn husks from burning. And for that, be armed with a spray bottle filled with water. These tamales can be served as an entree or as a side dish. You can tie the tamales together with string or with a thin strip of corn husk. Serve with Mexican rice, squash with tomatoes and green chile, and flan for dessert.
Green Chile Cheese Filling:
6 to 8 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, cut in strips
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
6 ounces asadero cheese, coarsely grated or substitute Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup chopped black olives
2 medium avocados, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Place the corn husks in water in a large bowl, weigh down with a plate and soak for 30 minutes or until soft.
Combine the cornmeal, milk, butter, masa, sugar and salt in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes. Cool and add the corn.
Drain the husks, pat dry with paper towels, and lay on a flat surface. Place two together, overlapping a little. Spread some of the cornmeal mixture on a husk, cover with chile strips, then onions, olives, and cheese. Place another layer of the cornmeal on top, pull the husks over the top and tie at both ends. Repeat until you have 6 packets.
Arrange the tamales around the edge of a high heat grill. Cook until the filling sets, turning occasionally, spraying with water to keep the husks from burning. It will take 45 to 60 minutes.
Place all the ingredients for the avocado cream in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth
To serve, slice open the tamale, spoon in the avocado cream, top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with the cilantro.
Yield: 6 tamales
Heat Scale: Medium
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