Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chili Today, Hot Tamale

Thanksgiving for me often meant traveling with my family to North Carolina to spend the holiday with my mother's extended family. One of the memories from that was a game that I played with my brother and sister, trying to be the first one to spot the next South of the Border sign.

Anyone who has traveled I-95 through the Carolinas has seen these signs every 20 miles or so. They count down the miles to a kitschy tourist trap and have punny slogans like......

South of the Border sign 23 - Pedros Weather Report Chilli Today Hot Tamale

Which brings me to this non-recipe post. Until three years ago, I was a tamale virgin. I'd never had a real tamale. I know, criminal right?

Last week I finally made my first tamales from scratch and much to my surprise they turned out great.

I used Alton Brown's Hot Tamale recipe with an assist from Chilebrown at Mad Meat Genius with the following changes:
  • I used Maseca corn flour since I didn't have enough cornmeal.
  • I used bacon fat instead of lard.
  • I used my leftover smoked Jamaican Jerk pork butt, chopped up with chipotle & adobo sauce for the meat filling.
  • I used chicken stock for the "cooking liquid" since I didn't boil the pork.
  • I steamed the tamales instead of the simmering method.
  • I topped them with a quick cheating chili with beans
These might not have been authentic or perfect, but they were damn good and I can't wait to make another batch before making my first ever Christmas tamales.

What is the last dish that you made where you surprised yourself and thought, "Wow...I can make this!"?


  1. Oh, Chris, I'm not surprised that anything you make doesn't turn out perfect! You so inspire me. I get surprised all of the time by my dishes that turn out well. I think the latest one that sticks out in my mind was that Southwestern Sloppy Joe with Honey Lime Slaw, even though I didn't have the chilies or cilantro ;)

  2. I am glad you did not use cornmeal. Tamale has to be corn flour or even better fresh masa if you have access. "Tamales"(Mark Miller) is a book I like. Your next step is barbequed tamales!

  3. Ok...I'm jealous! I LOVE tamales and have for years (especially the good homemade ones) but have never had the guts to make them. Well shoot...if a good ole southern boy can do it, I socal gal certainly can too!
    They look fantastic!
    My last "wow,I made this!!" was when I made cheese :)

  4. I've never made tamales either. My "wow" food moment came when I made a nectarine tart and it looked exactly like the picture in Bon Appetit. I almost fainted, because I'm not much of a baker or a dessert maker.

    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Travel safely.

  5. I've never MADE tamales before but I've definitely eaten them. Oh have I eaten them. These look delicious. I really need to get over my fear of making them though. It's quite unbecoming.

  6. I bet some people would rather spend time at the tourist traps than with psychotic families.
    *raises hand*

  7. Being a Texas gal, I've eaten a pretty good share of tamales and these look REALLY good, Chris! You've inspired me to tackle making them, too.

    I have quite a few "wow" moments: making cheese, spring rolls and my first eggs Benedict to name a few. It's often easier than I thought, and so much fun to conquer!

  8. I had never had tamales until I moved to AZ. I worked at this office and this little old Mexican lady used to come in and sell homemade tamales. They were good, though I never got used to the texture of them......I know..I'm probably the only person in AZ that doesn't like tamales!! Yours do look good though!

  9. Never made tamales, but there's always a first time. My most recent "Wow" was when I made homemade ricotta cheese. Incredibly easy and very good.

  10. I've never eaten a tamale, but this does make them look tempting.
    I made a souffle once that DIDN'T fall. That was a Wow moment. I guess I Wow easily.

  11. Those are some outstanding looking tamales Chris. I love making, and more so, eating home made tamales.

  12. LOL on that sign, how cute. This dish came out great, love the shape.

  13. I used to LOVE South of the Border!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving.cook up a storm!

  14. I guess I just take tamales for granted, growing up in California. You can get fresh ones at most grocery stores around here year round (though at this time of year, pretty much everyone knows someone who is selling them for the holidays).

    First time I made donuts, was like, WOW, I made donuts!!

  15. You ought to be thrown in jail! But after seeing these tamales I'd bail you out. I've never made them, but have had plenty of home made and they're just outstanding. I almost bought a tamale steamer at our local Mexican Market, but have heard too many stories about how time consuming they are. Thanks for Chili Brown's website, when I lost my hard drive, I've still not rounded up all of my favorite blogs to "re-follow"

  16. Happy Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, handsome!

  17. I make a tamale casserole but have never attempted authentic tamales. I'm sure yours were amazing! I can't think of the last thing I made where I thought 'WOW, I made that,' but it's probably when I made eggplant parm or fudge. I was pretty impressed with myself :) Have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

  18. Tamales and enchiladas are on our agenda to try next year. They are classics of course, but they can go bad easily. Yours look pretty perfect. Using jerk pork was a good idea.

  19. YUM! I want these when I come visit next year :) I always loved that weather report, my dad would milk it till we were totally sick of it! LOL


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