Traditional Tamales with Red Chile Beef Filling


These were my Mother’s all-time favorite tamales. They are delicious, especially when served with the red chile sauce.

Yield: 5 to 6 dozen tamales
The Filling:
1-1/2 pounds beef stew
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic (1 clove), minced
1/2 cup ground pure red chile (hot chile is generally preferred)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
1 to 2 cups reserved meat stock

1. Simmer the meat in just enough water to cover and cook until tender. Reserve stock. Cut the meat in very small cubes or chop in a food processor. In a heavy skillet, brown the meat in the butter.

2. After the meat has browned, add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cool slightly and add the ground chile. Season with salt and oregano. Add a cup of meat stock and simmer the sauce uncovered, stirring regularly for 30-40 minutes. Continue to add stock little by little as it blends in to make a thick, smooth filling.

The Masa (Cornmeal Mixture):
3-1/2 cups warm water
6 cups masa (yellow, white or blue)
2 cups lard
1-3/4 teaspoons salt

1. Add the 3-1/2 cups warm water to the masa to make a very thick mixture that holds together; then let it stand.

2. Using medium speed on an electric mixer, cream the lard with the salt until very fluffy and it will float on water. Combine the lard with the masa and mix well with the electric mixer.

The Cornhusks:
5-6 dozen corn husks, soaked in warm water
Hot water

1. Soak the corn husks in hot water until soft and pliable.

2. Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa mixture on each softened corn husk, making a rectangle about 3 by 4 inches and leaving at least a 2-inch margin of husk around the edges. Next, place a strip of the meat filling in a strip down the center of each tamale, being careful not to place too much filling in each.

3. Fold the bottom of the husk up and tie both ends with strips of corn husk, or fold bottom up and top down and tie together in the center. If you plan to freeze the tamales, do so at this point, before steaming them.

4. Stand the tamales upright on a rack in a large kettle or pressure cooker. Before the rack is completely filled, add water ¾-inch deep in the bottom of the pot. Steam the tamales in a conventional steamer for 45 minutes, or in a pressure cooker under 15 pounds pressure for 20 minutes. Serve with sauce, either the thinned meat filling in this recipe or the Red Chile Sauce.

Note: Any leftover masa or meat mixture can be frozen. The steamed tamales can also be frozen. Each can be frozen for up to a year!

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