Southwestern Holiday Traditional Recipes
Santa Fe has many beautiful holiday traditions, but one of the most delicious involves making and devouring homemade tamales. In the southwest and throughout Mexico, family members gather for tamales for Christmas, New Year’s, the Day of the Dead and other festive celebrations.
“Tamale” is derived from “tamalii”, a word meaning “wrapped food” in the Nahuatl language of the ancient Aztecs. Tamales can include a wide variety of fillings, but usually include beef, chicken or pork or sweet versions with raisins and cinnamon.
Making tamales is often a family affair. An assembly line with family members of all ages form to spread the masa on corn husks, and then fill and fold the tamales. Once all the tamales are assembled, they are steamed and eaten and/or frozen for later use. Usually dozens of tamales are made at once so everyone can take some home and share with friends and family.
La Posada Chef “Mama Mary” Loya, our chef for over 25 years, is justifiably renowned for her delectable tamales. She uses her mother’s recipe and is pleased to share it below. Of course, if you’re not in the mood to cook, you can also enjoy her tamales every Friday and Saturday evening in our restaurant, Fuego.
Tamale Recipe from La Posada Chef “Mama Mary” Loya
Makes 3 Dozen Tamales
36 Corn Husks
Red Pork Filling
1 pork butt
1 quartered whole onion
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 red chile pod
Masa (Tamale Dough)
2 ½ pounds masa harina (corn flour)
1 cup lard, melted
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon baking power
Pork broth from cooking pork butt (see directions below)
Remove the seeds from the red chile pod and soak in water until it’s softened. Blend in a blender until it is smooth and add 2 tablespoons garlic powder and a pinch of salt to taste. Set aside.
Place the pork butt in a large pot with water and boil until tender and it can be shredded – about 4 hours.
Soak corn husks in water until soft – about ½ hour.
When the pork is done, drain the broth and save.
Shred and the pork and add to the red chile mixture. Stir and slowly cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. If the mixture needs to be thicker, add 2 teaspoons of corn starch blended in a cup of cold water and continue to stir.
Make the masa by combining the first four masa ingredients listed above. Add pork broth until it is creates a dough soft enough to spread on the corn husk.
Assemble the tamales by spreading a thin layer of the masa on each husk and adding a dollop of the pork mixture. Fold the ends in and then the sides.
Place the folded tamales in a double boiler and steam for an hour. Once cooked, let the tamales sit for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Once the tamales have cooled, they can also be frozen for later use.
Green Chile Cheese Potato Latke Recipe from La Posada Chef “Mama Mary” Loya
Celebrating Chanukah? The Staab family, the original owners of the estate that became La Posada, were Jewish. Santa Fe and New Mexico has many longstanding Jewish traditions and Chef “Mama Mary” Loya is pleased to present this southwestern spin on that Chanukah classic, potato latkes.
2 cups peeled shredded potatoes (Idaho baking potatoes are best)
3 tablespoons shredded onion (white or yellow)
1 cup canned corn (not cream style)
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup diced green chile (preferably Hatch NM green chile)
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup oil (peanut oil is best, otherwise canola will work)
Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible. (If you don’t own a cheesecloth, use a very thin dish towel)
In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.
Add the green chile and cheese and gently stir to combine.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot.
Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties.
Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other.
Let drain on paper towels.
Serve immediately with a side of sour cream or applesauce.
*To reheat, it is best NOT to microwave, rather, place the latkes in a skillet without oil over medium heat and warm up each side and serve, or, one can even warm up in the oven.