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Corned Beef Tamales: A Traditional Mexican Dish With an Irish Twist

Sub out potatoes for fresh masa dough and corned beef for barbacoa and you've got an amazing fusion dish perfect for St. Patrick's Day. The only decision is whether to enjoy these Irish tamales with a margarita or a pint of Guinness.
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With the launch of Panhandle Milling’s brand-new masa flour and St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, our creatives got to thinking: What if we put corned beef inside a tamale?

The result is Irish tamales. We prepared corned beef in the Crock-Pot just as we do every March and mixed up a batch of tamal dough then married the two. The traditional corn texture is on the outside, while on the inside is the rich flavor of corned brisket. Our taste testers couldn’t get enough, especially when paired with cabbage cooked in the Crock-Pot and some hot sauce to kick it up a notch. We’re surprised Carlos O’Brien’s didn’t come up with this fusion dish before we did.

Keep in mind, properly preparing corned beef in the Crock-Pot requires eight hours on low heat, and the tamale-making process will inevitably take longer than you expect — especially if you’ve never made tamales before. For that reason, you’ll want to get started early and may even want to cook the corned beef the day before. And the more people to help assemble tamales, the better. Much like the little red hen, you’ll have plenty of people willing to help you eat the tamales — but to cut down on cook time, you’ll want help with preparation as well.

Corned Beef

The only downside to cooking corned beef in the Crock-Pot is the agonizing wait during which delicious smells grow increasingly stronger throughout the house. Keep light snacks on hand to keep yourself sated without ruining your appetite, and be wary of opening the window lest you end up with the neighbors on your doorstep asking what’s for dinner. Goes without saying, we recommend cooking a little more than you think you’ll need so you can cut yourself a taste during the tamale-making process.

Ingredients

  • corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • baby potatoes, halved
  • baby carrots
  • white onion, roughly chopped
  • cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 can of beer

Directions

  1. Layer vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker, potatoes on the bottom followed by the cabbage, carrots, and onions. This provides a buffer between direct heat and your corned beef, allowing the protein to cook more uniformly over time
  2. Set the corned beef on top, fat cap on top. Much like cooking duck breast, you want the fat to render over the protein and keep it moist throughout the cooking process
  3. Pour in a mixture of beef stock and beer (we prefer Guinness Extra Stout) until it covers two-thirds of the corned beef. Don’t cover the entire brisket to allow the fat to render and seep into the beef
  4. Sprinkle the spice packet over the top of the corned beef. We supplemented our spice packet with additional mustard seeds and oregano and added bay leaf to the beef stock because we like big, bold flavors
  5. Set Crock-Pot to low and let cook for eight hours
  6. Bonus points: After removing the corned beef, put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to crisp up those pickling spices

 

 

Tamal Dough

Our Gluten-Free Tamales for Beginners recipe is a great starting point for anyone who has never made tamales before and can definitely be used to make these Irish tamales. However, in this instance, we went a slightly less healthy route, subbing in lard and adding some additional seasonings so the tamal dough would stand out next to the corned beef. Given the nature of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we felt the added fat content would also help those who decided to have a few more adult beverages than they normally do.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Panhandle Milling Masa Harina
  • 3 cups warm broth (we used vegetable stock)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 cup lard
  • package of dried corn husks

Directions

  1. Soak the dried corn husks to soak in water for at least 30 minutes
  2. Add remaining ingredients to a bowl and mix at low speed until fully incorporated
  3. We highly, highly recommend using warm broth as it will make the tamal dough to be more pliable and easy to spread across the corn husks when building tamales

 

Constructing and Cooking Tamales

Anyone who has ever made a tamale has their own way to do things, and they’re right: Their way is the best way because tamale wrapping is tough! So whatever it takes to successfully wrap your protein in dough and corn husk, we’re not going to admonish. This worked relatively well for us, but feel free to experiment.

Constructing

  1. Lay the corn husk on the countertop and spread in a commensurate amount of dough
  2. Flatten the dough with your hand or a spatula, aiming for the dough to be a uniform thickness and leaving room on the sides and bottoms to roll the corn husk
  3. Add your filling (corned beef, in our case) in a line across the center of the dough
  4. Fold one side over the filling, aiming for the dough to fully encapsulate the filling
  5. Baby tuck the bottom of the corn husk up toward the top of the tamal
  6. Finish rolling with the rest of the corn husk
  7. Use a thin strand of corn husk to tie a bow on your tamal for style points and to help hold it together, though this isn’t necessary

There are many ways to cook your tamales including sous vide and the Instant Pot, but we went with the traditional method of steaming since it doesn’t require any additional gadgetry.

Cooking

  1. Arrange the tamales vertically in your steamer with the folded side down and the exposed tamale dough facing up
  2. If you don’t have enough tamales to fill the space and keep them upright, use mason jars or other glassware that can stand up to the heat
  3. Steam for 45-60 minutes
  4. You’ll know they’re finished when you can pull the husk away cleanly from the tamale

Tips and Tricks

  • Warm broth will help the dough be more pliable, and if it seems excessively dry, feel free to add more lard to your dough and give it another mix
  • Wet hands will prevent dough from sticking as much
  • Get more dried corn husks than you think you’ll need as they inevitably rip and tear so it’s good to have backups
  • As previously mentioned, allow yourself plenty of time to finish