by Lorin Gaudin
FOR THIS ISSUE, I decided to go seriously old school and play with a recipe for New Orleans style Hot Tamales. What exactly are New Orleans Hot Tamales? Well, those of an age will remember Manuel’s Hot Tamales – small cylinders of spiced ground beef and a bit of cornmeal, wrapped in thin papers and covered in a slick, spicy sauce. Dozens came wrapped in newspaper—the grease seeping through almost immediately—and there were always Saltine crackers to soak up the sauce and tamale bits. Maybe it’s a nostalgic food memory at work, but I fondly recall hot tamales as the most delicious and best hangover cure, ever.
Manuel’s may be long gone, but there are still loads of tamales being made and sold from stands and restaurants around town. Get a beefy hot tamale fix by the half-dozen or dozen from Bucktown’s R&O or for a touch more cornmeal and a tamale po-boy, try Guillory’s Deli on Derbigny in Metairie.
To make homemade tamales is no easy thing. However, after cooking several batches, I arrived at this relatively simple recipe and method. There’s still some labor involved, but overall, these tamales are pretty quick to put together, delicious and the clean-up is easy. Get the holidays rolling with New Orleans Hot Tamales.
FOR THE TAMALES
- 2 lbs of ground beef (ground chuck is good)
- 1 medium sweet yellow onion, quartered
- 2 – 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 Caroll Shelby’s Chili Kits (use all packets except the masa flour)
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1⁄4 cup chili powder (I love Mexene)
- 1⁄2 8 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1⁄2 – 3⁄4 cups of yellow cornmeal
- 1- 2 teaspoons red chile flakes (optional but good if you like extra spicey) tamale papers
FOR THE SAUCE
(this is what will be added to the tamales as they cook)
- 1⁄2 can of tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1⁄4 cup chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add seasonings, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside.
TO MAKE THE HOT TAMALES
Place raw ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Put onions, seasonings, and tomato sauce in a food processor or blender and process until the onions are finely chopped. Pour tomato-onion-spice mixture over the meat. Add the cornmeal and with your hands, mix well. Take 1-2 Tablespoons meat mixture, shape into a log and wrap into moistened tamale paper to completely close in the beef. Repeat until all the tamale mixture is gone.
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, stack the tamales in layers – making sure each layer is perpendicular to the one below. Cover the tamales with water then add the seasoned tomato sauce. Cover pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check occasionally to be sure the tamales stay covered. At the end of 2 hours, gently remove tamales to a cookie sheet and let cool to help set the cornmeal. Tamales can be reheated in a pan on the stove or in a microwave.
Reduce the “sauce” that remains in the cooking pot by half, over high heat. Serve the sauce over the reheated tamales, and don’t forget saltine crackers to go alongside.