When you think of Christmas dinner, what's on the table? Maybe a standing rib roast? A turkey with all the trimmings? Maybe a ham? For us, and for lots of excitable eaters across the Southwest, we also think of tamales. This traditional Mexican comfort food, eaten for breakfast or dinner (or anything in between really), is a cornmeal dumpling, stuffed with other goodies and steamed in a corn husk.
The most traditional tamales are stuffed with pork simmered for hours in a red chile sauce, green chiles and cheese or chicken with salsa verde. But we've also enjoyed sweet dessert tamales filled with raisins and pineapple on occasion. We want to warn you: you'd be hard-pressed to find a tamales recipe that isn't a bit of a project. Simmering pork requires time. Blending the masa harina with the -- ahem -- lard (or whichever fat you decide to use) takes patience. Filling the corn husks with the right amount of filling takes practice and a willingness to mess up a few times.
But the result is completely worth it. Tamales are some of the heartiest, most comforting winter fare we can think of. Whether they're brand new to your family and friends, or a long-lost tradition, we really think 2012 is the tamale's year. Happy holidays and don't overfill your corn husks!