I can probably account about 15lbs of pregnancy weight to "Manuels" hot tamales in New Orleans. When I was pregnant with my first child I would make a daily half mile trek to "Manuels" to get my exercise and my tamales. (Yes, I know this is counterproductive similar to my I can drink wine while I do Pilates and it doesn't count as calorie intake theory. It got to the point that I went so often that no matter the line, the ladies would have the throng of high school boys waiting pass me tamales as soon as I got there.) Sadly "Manuels" closed after Katrina and these little bundles of tamale heaven went away. After years of missing them I decided to recreate them with a Meaux twist . There are many versions of the Mississippi Delta style tamales. I hope you enjoy my Cajuned up version.
First, I prepare the sauce. Pretty simple, you combine the tomato sauce, water and seasonings in a saucepan. This is where I add a personal touch. I added my homemade Cajun seasoning and smoked paprika. Don't skip the paprika. It adds a great punch. Bring the sauce mixture to a boil and take off heat and set aside.
For the tamale meat mixture I added something - something I do often to many recipes. I like to do a combo of ground pork and beef instead of just beef. I find it reduces dryness and adds additional flavor and tenderness to the final product. And hey - pork is cheaper than beef. (I'm one of those weird people that like to grind my own meat but thats not necessary. I think I just like to have an excuse to play with my kitchen gadgets.) Put your two meats together in a large bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl combine the spice mixture and sat aside. Mince about a half an onion. It should equal 1/2 cup. Bring back that big bowl of meat. Add the spices, minced onions, tomato sauce and water. Now its time to get your hands dirty. Mix all the ingredients together until completely combined. You can try to use a spoon but your hands do really work best. The mixture needs to be a sticky consistency, add more water if needed. You need to taste test the mixture. (I'm sure your don't enjoy eating raw meat and if you do, no judgement here.) Drop a little in a skillet and when cooked through grab you a taste. Adjust your salt and spices as needed. Set this mixture aside.
Bring a stock pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add separated corn husks to the boiling water. Boil for a couple minutes then remove and set on towels.
Combine the corn meal with seasonings in a separate bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Assembly time! Using your eyeballs or a measured scoop grab a large tablespoon full of meat mixture. Roll into a log about 1/2 inch wide and 3-4 inches long. Roll the log in the cornmeal mixture till fully coated.
Place the log at one corner on the wide end of the husk and slowly roll, trying to keep it as tight as possible. Fold over the tail and place the tamale seam down on a baking sheet. If the tamale keeps popping up you can tie it shut with this strip of corn husk to keep it closed. (It makes them look extra pretty too.) Now repeat, repeat, repeat till all tamales are rolled. You should have at least 25 tamales depending on heavy handed you are with meat mixture.
Place the tamales in a stock pot in flat layers seam side down. For the first layer lay the all in one direction. Second layer lay them in the opposite direction keep going till all tamales are in the pot.
Pour the sauce over the tamales. Add water if needed to make sure the tamales submerged with just a thin layer of liquid. Now here is an very important part- bring your pot to a simmer not a rolling boil. If it boils, your tamales will die an untimely death. Once you get them simmering put a well fitting lid on and simmer for two hours. Periodically check on them to make sure the liquid stays above the tamales and that its not boiling. Once done, carefully remove from the pot and let cool for at least 10-15 minutes. Try to resist the urge to open these babies up early. The corn meal needs time to set so its not a gloopy mess. These freeze beautifully and are easy to make in large batches. Hope you enjoyed this adventure into Hot Tamale time!
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 cup Dark Chili powder
2-3 teaspoons Salt( taste test to see if you need more)
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper ( I add more but I am a spice junky)
2 cups of water
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Cumin
2 teaspoons of Salt ( Once again taste test this, I love salt but if you don't you may to start with 1 tsp.)
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
4 ounces Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Minced Onion
1-2 tablespoons cold water( this makes it sticky)
All the rest:
25-35 Corn Husk Wrappers
1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon salt.
Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.
Combine pork and beef in a large bowl and set aside. Combine all the spice ingredients in a small bowl. Add spice mix, tomato sauce, onion and water to the meats. Hand mix all ingredients until its evenly seasoned (there should be no streaks of seasoning). The mixture should be wet and slightly sticky. Add water in small amounts if needed to get to that consistency. Cook a little bit up in a pan to test your seasoning. I find salt or black pepper can be what's lacking to give you that punch of flavor.
PREP FOR ASSEMBLY
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.Separate and boil the corn husks for 2-3 minutes. Remove with tongs and set aside. if they are extra brittle just throw them in for a couple more minutes.
Combine the corn meal, chili powder and salt in a shallow pan.
Roll 1 heaping tablespoon into a log shape, about 1/2 inch thick and 3-4 inches long. Roll the meat in the cornmeal till fully coated. Place the log in the one corner of the wide end of the corn husk. Slowly and as tightly as possible roll the log in the husk. Tuck the tail end over the rolled part and place seam side down on a baking sheet. If the tamale keeps popping out of the roll you can gently tie it with a small strip of husk to keep it together. Keep on keeping on till all your meat is gone. This should make at least 25 tamales depending on heavy handed you are with meat the number varies.
COOKING THESE BAD BOYS UP
In a stockpot or dutch oven lay your tamales flat, seam side down in one direction. As much in one direction as you can in a round pot. Lay a second layer in the opposite direction. Keep layering till all the tamales are in the pot.
Pour the sauce over the tamales and add extra water if needed to submerge them in the liquid. There should be a thin layer of liquid just over the top of the tamales. Bring the pot to a slow simmer. Once simmering cover the pot with a snug lid and simmer for two hours. Check them frequently to make sure they do not come to a full boil and to see if you need to add liquid. Once done remove from the pot and let them rest for 10-15 minutes to let the cornmeal set. Then Serve.
I'm a Barbarian so I like these with sour cream and hot sauce, try it you may like it.
Many thanks go to the blog Chocolate + Marrow for leading me to the original Manuels hot tamale recipe in a Times-Picayune article from 1970. I'm sure she will never see my little blog but if she does. Know this I and many New Orleanians thank you for researching and bringing a little joy back that we lost.