When I was little I thought stuffing was gross because it was, you know, the guts. My big brother Tony convinced me by whispering, “Yep, Mom really does serve us guts, but don’t tell her I told you!”
Then one Thanksgiving, when Tony was at his girlfriend’s house, I had a revelation … and the truth was miraculously delicious. Since then I’ve made all sorts of stuffings with oysters and figs, roasted shallots and pancetta, sausage, leeks, fennel and roasted peppers, but never with gizzards.
Stuffing is a regional tradition; in other words, I can guess where you’re from by the kind of stuffing you like. Marilyn grew up with stuffing made from Texas cornbread and biscuits. I had a college roommate from New England who insisted on dried cranberries and lots of toasted almonds. Being from the Midwest, I’m used to stale bread with chicken broth and cream, onions, celery, parsley, sage and thyme.
So this Christmas, we’re celebrating Southwestern style by combining our two favorites. We love making tamales on Christmas day and this version satisfies both our craving for tamales and our love of stuffing. Try it if you have the guts to stray from your childhood favorite. And if you know Tony, listen closely and you can probably catch him in the act of telling your kids that there’s something gross in the stuffing so there’s more for him. Boys will be boys.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with joy, happiness and brotherly love!
Christmas Tamale Stuffing
3-1/2 cups masa flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2-1/2 cups hot water
2-1/2 sticks butter (20 tablespoons), cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups diced yellow onions
1 cup diced roasted red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 cup diced mild green chilies
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1 teaspoon ground sage
Pinch of black pepper
Measure the masa flour, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, pour in the hot water in a slow and steady stream. Run the processor for 2 minutes to “fluff” the dough. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, and continue processing for 2 minutes longer.
Scoop about 1/2 cup of the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a rectangle like a tamale – don’t worry about the exact shape and size – and wrap to close like a corn husk. You’ll end up with 8 or 9 tamales. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes using a double boiler with a steamer insert.
While the tamales are steaming, heat the oil in a medium saucepan until rippling. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until they’re soft and aromatic. Stir in the corn, green chilies, cilantro, if using, sage and pepper. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside.
Remove the tamales from the steamer and cool for about 10 minutes. Unwrap, crumble into dressing-size pieces, and gently combine with the onion mixture.
Scrape the dressing into a 13- x 9-inch casserole pan, cover with foil, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes.
Note: The dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Let the dressing sit at room temperature for at least an hour before reheating.
Makes 6 to 8 servings with leftovers
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