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Chefs’ Corner: Cajun Tamales from Mike’s in the Village

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Cajun Tamale

Mike Romano of Mike’s in the Village, 2355 Bulverde Road, Bulverde, made these Cajun-inspired tamales for the recent Tamalada Throw-Down at the Spire in Sunset Station. The dramatic presentation was matched by the flavors of rich corn masa, Cajun spices and succulent crawfish meat as well as the creamy sauce. The filling may not be traditional, but after a taste or two, these Cajun Tamales could become a tradition in your house.

Cajun Tamales

Masa Harina:

When preparing tamale dough, season the dough (make at least 2 pounds) with fresh ground chiles, such as mild ground red chile or pasilla chiles;  fresh herbs (such as thyme, parsley or a little oregano);  garlic, salt, pepper, house-made seafood and garlic butter and seafood stock .

You can either buy dry masa mix and follow the instructions on the package, or you can pick up fresh masa from a molina or H-E-B. To this dough you need to add some fat (seafood and garlic butter or your choice of shortening or lard) along with the seasonings. Then, use the seafood stock to moisten the masa into the correct consistency. Pliable but not wet —  so it will stick together inside the tamale. If you don’t have seafood stock, use a light chicken broth.

Tamale filling:
½ pound chopped Andouille sausage (Cajun pork sausage)
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup finely diced bell pepper
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound chopped crawfish tail meat (see note)
¼ cup of seafood stock
Pinch of kosher salt (see note)
Pinch of fresh ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of granulated garlic
Pinch of ground thyme

8 large dried corn husks, soaked in hot water until pliable, drained and patted dry
Eight boiled whole crawfish, for garnish  (optional)

Place Andouille sausage in a sauté pan and render for about 10 minutes. Add onion, pepper, celery and garlic, sautéing until translucent, then add crawfish tail meat and seafood stock and mix well. Add the spices and cook down for an additional 10 minutes.

Mike Romano plates his Cajun Tamale.

Let cool slightly. Divide masa and filling evenly between the corn husk: roll tamales, and steam for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Sauce (recipe below).

Note: You can purchase frozen crawfish tails, but the meat will need to be cleaned well with cool water to remove all fat. This will eliminate the fishiness that crawfish can produce when not cleaned properly. Also, my pinch tends to be a few pinches, but I like to season everything really well. You might start off with a pinch and adjust to your tasting. You can also use Cajun seasoning to substitute for all the seasoning listed; 2 tablespoons to start and season gradually to your taste.

Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Sauce:

1 shallot, finely chopped
1 minced garlic
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
½ cup white wine
3 cups heavy cream
Seafood base
1 ear roasted sweet white corn, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup goat cheese

Sauté shallots and garlic for 4 minutes. Add thyme leaves and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. Add heavy cream and bring to a soft boil. Add seafood stock, white corn and goat cheese, and reduce the sauce at medium low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until you reach a thick, rich consistency.

To plate, open tamale but leave in husk. Top with cream sauce and garnish with a boiled crawfish.

Makes 8 servings.

From Mike Romano/Mike’s in the Village

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