Saturday, May 1, 2010

Simple Saturdays Fake Out Tamales

Simple Saturdays features easy to make, easy to eat recipes. This week's Simple Saturday post features a leftover transformation: fake out tamales.

I should start this post with a disclaimer: these are NOT real tamales. They should not be served under the name of tamales. Real tamales have pork or beef filling surrounded by a savory corn masa dough. Real tamales are steamed in corn husks. These are NOT real tamales. But they are very tasty.

Every couple of weeks I should go through my pantry, freezer, and fridge and take inventory. I then buy only a few perishable and eat my way through what I have. This minimizes waste and cuts down the grocery budget, but also can inspire creativity.

Such was the case with fake out tamales. A few weeks ago I made a big batch of beef chili with beans and bell pepper. Since I am incapable of making a small amount of chili (or anything), I portioned out two smaller servings (enough for two big bowls each) and froze them separately in freezer bags.

This could have been the end of the story. Those bags of chili could have sat in my freezer for upwards of year only to be thrown out in a cleaning frenzy. They were saved from that cool fate (get it? cool fate, instead of cruel fate- I am hilarious!) by an inventory. One bag became a delicious, Mexican-ish casserole. A quick easy weeknight meal!

Cast of characters: jar of salsa (whatever you like), shredded cheese, corn tortillas, and leftover chili (~3 cups)

Preheat your oven to 350. Take out an 8x8 glass Pyrex dish. Don't grease.

Reheat the chili over medium heat. Taste and adjust/add your seasonings. When you freeze food, the flavors can get a bit dulled, so this step is not to be skipped. I added some salt, cumin, and chili powder.

Once it's fully defrosted, let it bubble 5-10 minutes so it reduces and gets thicker. This step keeps your casserole from being too watery. Turn off heat.

Coat the bottom of your baking dish with 1/4 cup salsa.

To assemble, first prepare the tortillas. If you have a microwave, microwave the tortillas wrapped in paper towels 2 minutes or until soft and pliable. This doesn't take long. If you don't have a microwave (like me), you can throw them in the oven directly on the rack while it's preheating. This doesn't create super soft tortillas, but does help minimize breakage.

Top one tortilla with 2-3 large tablespoons of chili. Add a tablespoon of shredded cheese.

Roll the tortilla carefully and place in the baking dish seam side down. See the cracks down the side of the tortilla? This won't happen if you microwave them.

Repeat with remaining tortillas. I managed to fit 5 "tamales" in my 8x8 baking dish. I made another tin foil pan of 5 "tamales", wrapped it in plastic wrap & then aluminum foil and froze for next week. I like to get a lot of mileage out of my meals and these "tamales" are super filling. Use a 9x13 dish if you're feeding a crowd and want to get all 10 into one dish.

Top with cheese, making sure to cover the tortillas completely.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until cheese it golden brown and casserole is hot throughout.

Serve hot, alongside a simple salad or vegetable.

Fake Out Tamales

1 cup salsa, use your favorite brand
3 cups chili, frozen or use your favorite canned variety
Spices to revive your chili, chili powder, salt, & cumin recommended
2 cups shredded cheese
10 corn tortillas, microwaved ~2 minutes

Preheat oven to 350. Take out 8x8 dish or 9x13 dish and do not grease.

Reheat chili over medium heat and season. Once fully defrosted, let bubble 5-10 minutes and reduce until very thick.

Coat the bottom of your baking dish with salsa.

Assemble "tamales" by layering 2-3 large tablespoons of chili, topping with a sprinkle of cheese, rolling, and placing seam side down in the dish. Repeat with all tortillas.

Top with salsa and cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

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