Collard Green Tamales with Pimiento Sauce | Recipe

The following recipe comes from Sandra A. Gutierrez’s The New Southern-Latino Table. To read OKRA’s review of the book, please visit this page – The New Southern-Latino Table Review.

Collard Green Tamales with Pimiento Sauce

From The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

These tamales, infused with garlicky intonations and enriched with greens, are drenched in a tangerine-colored sauce and then topped with crumbly cheese. Collard greens are as common in Latin American cuisine as they are in Southern cuisine. I’ve substituted them for the herbs found in the many varieties of traditional tamales. The colorful contrasts found here are as striking as the juxtaposition of flavors. Each bite offers the supple texture and earthy flavor of dumplings from ancient times and a refreshing take on a classic Southern ingredient. These morsels symbolize the merging of the New World with modern times. Tamales are considered a humble food, but here they’re transformed into elegant fare fit for the Southern-Latino table. You can make tamales ahead of time and freeze them. Re-steam them until hot.

  • 1 small bag dried corn husks (see note)
  • 1 cup lard (or vegetable shortening), divided
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 cups thinly sliced and roughly chopped collard greens, packed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 2 ¾ cups warm water (115°F)
  • Pimiento Sauce (recipe to follow)
  • ½ cup grated Cotija cheese or Parmesan (extra for garnish)

Submerge the husks in a large bowl of hot water for at least 1 hour, to soften. Keep them in the water until you assemble the tamales (for up to 24 hours). In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the lard over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the collards and cook, stirring often, until they’re wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper; remove from the heat and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the masa harina and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Gradually add the warm water, mixing the dough thoroughly with your hands after each addition, until the dough comes together into a smooth ball and is no longer sticky.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining lard until fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, gradually add the prepared masa, one small piece at a time, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl every so often, until the lard is incorporated and the masa is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add the collards and cheese and stir with a spatula until combined. Cover the masa and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Tear 3 corn husks into long, thin strips (following the natural ridges of the husks) to make ties. Working with 1 corn husk at a time, spread ⅓ cup of masa onto the center with an offset spatula, leaving the bottom 3 inches and the top 2 inches of the husk exposed. Fold the long edges of the husk over the masa and then fold the two short ends over. Tie a husk strip around the tamale to secure it (but not too tight; it shouldn’t have a “waist” or it will explode when steamed).

Fill a large stockpot or Dutch oven with 3 inches of water and fit it with a steamer basket. Line the basket with the remaining corn husks. Arrange the tamales in the basket (they can be laid flat in layers or placed side by side standing on end). Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat; cover the pan and steam the tamales for 1 hour (replenishing the water periodically as needed); turn off the heat and steam for another 20 minutes. Place the cooked tamales in a casserole dish with a cover to keep warm before serving. Unwrap the tamales and serve each with a generous amount of warm pimiento sauce; sprinkle with cheese.

Makes 14 small tamales

Note: A small bag of corn husks contain about 50 husks. Sealed in a plastic bag, they’ll keep for up to 2 years.

Pimiento Sauce

From The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

This smooth, creamy, and delicately flavored sauce takes on a vibrantly coral hue from the colorful vegetables used to make it. This is my twist on the all-purpose tomato sauce made throughout Latin America. The base of Latin tomato sauces is the ever-present sofrito — a combination of finely chopped garlic, onion, and tomatoes, but in this version, the flavor of red peppers rules over the rest. At home, I use this sauce interchangeably with classic tomato sauces as a base for other sauces, soups, and stews. You will have no trouble finding jars of these cooked, peeled, and preserved sweet red peppers on your grocer’s shelves. Use this sauce to dress Pimiento and Cheese Chilaquiles (recipe in book) or Collard Green Tamales; it is also great on fish, eggs, and vegetables.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 (7-ounce) jars diced pimientos, drained (juices reserved)
  • 1 teaspoon ají panca paste or hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3–4 minutes, or until they begin to soften; add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the pimientos, aji panca paste, water, reserved juices from the pimientos, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and keep warm until ready to serve.

Makes 2 cups


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