Recipe: Betting on the Orange and Tamale Hotdish


I make no secret of the fact that Mexican cuisine is a favorite of mine. Whether it was the seven cent bean burritos purchased every day for lunch in junior and senior high school or the wonderful tostadas, tacos and chimichangas consumed regularly at the locally famous Karichimaka Mexican restaurant located almost right below our Tucson, Arizona mountain home, I ate my share.

This recipe for Tamale Hot Dish is excellent and reminds me of my first tamale experience. I don’t think a girl ever forgets her first tamale. Mine was at a wedding on the Papago Indian reservation.  My sister and I were invited to attend the wedding by family friends. Bill was a full member of the Papago tribe and a decorated World War II Veteran. His wife was a German war bride.

As we drove out onto the reservation, Bill would see relatives or his friends pass us on the highway. It was almost like back home in Minnesota where you knew everyone and no one passed by without a friendly robotic wave.  Only these folks were made out of much more social stuff than stoic swedes. Here the cars would come to a screeching halt and pull over to the side of the road.  Adult male occupants of the cars would quickly exit, someone, other that us, would produce a cooler.  A beer and quick visit would ensue. Then, it was back into the car and down the road we’d go until the next opportunity for social engagement presented itself.

Bill’s family ties were strong and extensive and our forward progress towards the wedding location was measured. I was informed that time was not invented by the Papago, but by the white man. On the reservation commencement of wedding festivities was based on relative arrival not a clock.

Being out on the reservation always felt magical and this occasion was no exception. It was a big wedding and we were packed into that unairconditioned, unventilated church like sardines. Even so, and after their long drives to reach the church everyone was obviously in a great mood.

The ceremony was beautiful filled with Catholic pomp and tradition. The bride wore a bright pastel pink gown and veil and the priest was resplendent in white robes. She looked lovely as her father escorted her down the aisle and placed her hand to the hand of her good-looking groom.

As the priest joined together this handsome young couple in the sacrament of marriage, their impish feisty little ring bearer, decided to get down on his hands and knees and amuse the congregation by lifting the priest’s robe and taking a peak underneath.  After accomplishing his goal and being satisfied with the result of his quest the darling pint-sized toddler parked himself right between the couple and the priest to view the remainder of the marriage ceremony and fell asleep.

By the time the service concluded everyone was looking forward to congratulating the happy couple, getting something cold to drink and enjoying the wedding supper. The traditional southwestern entrees looked fantastic. Whoever furnished the food for the meal had put a lot of time and effort into its preparation, especially the tamales.  Making the hundreds of tamales that were served to the guests must have taken days.  It was an experienced hand that had made the fillings, wrapped and tied all of those bundles of deliciousness in corn husks.

Unwrapping a tamale is like unwrapping a present. It is delightful and these tamales did not disappoint. After my first bite into the homemade tamale, I knew that I would never again experience another one quite like it.  I delicately removed the lead shot BBs from my mouth as I silently wondered what type of meat I was eating. Then, I finished the tamale with gusto!

Our return trip to Tucson proceeded slowly as it was a mirror image of our trip to the reservation.  The only difference being my little sister fell asleep.  Sound asleep she was balancing an orange on the top of her fist. The other occupants of the car placed bets on how long it would be before the orange landed on the floor. It stayed on my sister’s hand the whole way home.  I was so proud of her even though she was oblivious to her accomplishment.

This recipe for Tamale Hotdish can be made with shredded beef, ground beef, shredded chicken or…your choice of wild game.  The original recipe called for it to be made in a large skillet of unspecified-size.  I don’t own one of those. So, I adapted the recipe to bake in a 9 X 13 pan. It will serve a large crowd such as those gathered together for wedding, hunting or Superbowl parties.

Tamale HotDish
Recipe adapted from Delish website. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray.

Cornbread Crust:
2 boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sweet corn kernels (drained)
2 large eggs (lightly beaten)

In a medium-sized bowl mix together muffin mix, sour cream, sweet corn and beaten eggs until evenly combined.  Pour into prepared 9 X 13 pan. Spread evenly.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool slightly. Polk holes all over the cornbread with the back end of a wooden spoon. Set aside

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of Taco Seasoning.
Salt to taste
4 cups of cooked ground or shredded meat. (Three boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce (divided)

In a large skillet over medium heat brown the chopped onions in the olive oil. Cook onions until tender. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add taco seasoning and salt. Add cooked meat and 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce. Stir until combined.

Pour 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce over the holes in the cornbread crust. Evenly spread filling over the cornbread crust.

1 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Mix cheese together and sprinkle on top.  Bake for 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

Serves 8.



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