Alex’s mom makes the BEST tamales. They are made with multiple dried chiles, which are soaked overnight, ground, and then stewed with pork, wrapped in masa, and sprinkled with two secret ingredients. It takes three days to make them. Tamales are a tradition of the Christmas holiday for countless families. It’s a tradition for the families because it literally takes an army to make these tasty treats, between stewing the meat, making the masa, and spreading the masa. I knew I was in the “familia” when Alex’s mom shared her family recipe with me. The only stipulation was that I MAY NOT share that with anyone else. Sorry readers… Besides, as good as Alex’s Mom’s tamales are, it’s unlikely that you will make them more than once. Once you make them, and you experience how chopping pork can actually make your arms sore, you will seek other methods of tamale acquisition. I have.

I do have a recipe for you, though. If I can’t have Alex’s Mom’s tamales, then I really love a good green chile tamale. They have chicken, cheese, and green chile sauce. Rather than going through the trouble of wrapping these, I use polenta or grits to mimic the masa. You can get all the flavor of a tamale in half a day, or less.

Inside Out Green Chile Tamale

  • 8 tomatillos, halvedimg_4737
  • 1 large or 2 small poblano peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic (about 20 cloves), divided and peeled
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 c chicken broth

In a cast iron pot or heavy bottom pot, place tomatillos, poblanos, onions, garlic, cilantro, and broth. Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring the broth to a boil, cover with a lid, and then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 2-3 hours. Remove chicken to a plate, and place the vegetables in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding about 1 c water to increase the volume. Shred the chicken with a fork and return it to the pot. Cover with the green chile sauce and return to a simmer. Serve over cheddar grits/polenta.  Sprinkle with some of the remaining cilantro bunch.

Cheddar Grits (or Polenta)

  • 4.5 c water, coldimg_4738
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 c quick cooking grits or polenta
  • 3/4 c heavy cream
  • 1 c cheddar cheese, grated


Put the grits, salt and water in a sauce pan, and cook on medium high heat, stirring.  Once the grits start to bubble, add the cream.  Continue stirring until cream is combined and absorbed, about 2 minutes.  If the mix is too thick, add 1/4 cup water at a time until desired consistency is reached, then add the cheese.  Melt the cheese, and serve immediately.


One thought on “Familia

  1. Pingback: A sticky situation… | Neighborly Life

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