We took a staycation the last week of the year, and I got a wild hair to make our own corn tortillas. “How hard could it be,” I thought. Turns out, fairly hard. As in, what are these? Frisbees? This left us with a five pound bag of masa in the pantry. What to do, what to do. Turns out it makes totally delicious corn bread, which is almost cakey in texture. It is also what is often used to thicken chicken tortilla soup – that ubiquitious, obstenisibly Mexican but really more of a gringo dish. Then I saw the bags of frozen roasted and peeled Hatch green chili in the freezer at Trader Joe’s , and a diabolical plot was born.
I made a pot of this, and took some to work. A co-worker took a taste and said, “Hey! That tastes like green corn tamales!” Yeah, my work here is done.
Put some cubes of colby or mild cheddar in the bottom of the bowl and ladle this on top, and you will be in heaven. Even better, serve it with a cheese crisp. Just remember to taste your chiles – hot chiles mean spicy soup. If you are lucky enough to live near a Mexican supermarket that roasts green chiles in the late summer, they would be even better. I’d avoid the canned variety for this – the central flavor of this soup is the chile, and the canned varieties are so mild they would render a pot of tastelessness.
This is super fast – start to slurp in under 40 minutes. Give it a try, you ‘ll be glad you did.
Green Tamale Soup
2 quarts chicken (or vegetable) broth
¾ c. masa harina (instant corn masa)
3 celery stalks, chopped for soup
3 carrots, peeled & chopped for soup
1 fat zucchini, chopped for soup
½ medium white onion, diced
1 c. roasted and peeled Hatch green chili (fresh or frozen. NOT canned.)
1 c. frozen corn.
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
In a bowl, mix the masa with about a cup and half of the stock to make a paste (or a thick slurry.)
In a large soup pot, dump all the other ingredients. Turn the stove on high. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat to medium low and whisk in the masa slurry.
Simmer about 20-30 minutes, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Don’t put the heat too high or the masa will burn on the bottom of the pan. The longer cook time just means softer veg.
This is even better the next day. And, you could absolutely add some diced cooked chicken breast to this, if you wanted to boost the protein quotient.
So, planning the menu this week I intended to make Budget Bytes’ super amazing lentil and sausage stew. Only it was a hellacious day. And when I got home, these bewitching comfort-in-starchy-skins were staring at me from their basket above the counter. I answered their Siren’s song, dammit. The base of this perverted autumn classic is the sausage and mire poix with a veg stock/maizena sauce, a layer of frozen chopped spinach, and then the topping with those luscious spud sirens smooshed to submission with butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic salt and chopped kalamata olives. Screw you, Tuesday. This is delicious.
Torta di Pastore (Shepherd's Pie)
An italian sausage and chickpea base, layer of chopped spinich and luscious kalamata parsley mashed potatoes.
2 tsp Penzey's Tuscan sunset (or just Italian Seasoning)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp veg stock base
1 tsp corn starch
1 c water
1/2 c. chopped parsley
¾ c chopped frozen spinach
5 potatoes, mashed with
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 c. (almond) milk
garlic salt & pepper
¼ c chopped kalamata olives
¼ c minced parsley
Make your mashed potatoes, stirring in the olives and parsley last.
Preheat oven to 375*. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high. Add the italian sausage, and cook until no pink remains. (Drain oil here if necessary). Add the chopped vegetables, tomato paste and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally for five minutes. Add the garbanzos, herbs and fennel. Mix the water, corn starch and veg stock base and stir in to the pan, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce is thickened. Stir in the chopped parsley and remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer filling to a 9'x9" square pan. Sprinkle with the frozen chopped spinach. Then layer on the mashed potatoes. (Or pipe them on with an 8B French star tip if you are a total spaz like me.) Sprinkle with some grated pecorino romano or the like. Slide in the oven, bake 50 - 60 minutes, until the potatoes are beautifully browned.
We are so lucky to have this amazing Italian deli and food shop in town, Roma Imports. They make their own sauces, sausages, desserts, and carry salume and pasta like that reginette in the photo that we otherwise just would not find here.
We are in love with their Count Dracula sausage, and it is my favorite to use when making what my Italian-American friends call “gravy” (and what the rest of us call pasta sauce.) It is a beautiful thing, bursting with juicy porky goodness, seasoned with lots of hot pepper and garlic. YUM!
Since we don’t do the whole primo/secondo thing at our house, we like to slice the sausage in the sauce after it’s cooked. It serves more that way, I think. But hey, I’m a cheap ass. Ask my husband.
Count Dracula's Pasta Dinner
Spicy sausage tomato sauce served with reginette noodles, whose wavy edges really hold the sauce.
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
3 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp. Penzey's Tuscan Sunset seasoning (or plain old Italian seasoning, or1 1/2 tsp each dried: marjoram, basil, oregano, and 1 tsp rosemary)
1 Tsp. Fennel seeds
1/3 bottle soft red wine (TJ's 3-buck-chuck Syrah or Merlot, for example)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds long pasta (spaghetti, reginette, linguini, whatever floats your boat)
Preheat the oven to 350*. Get out your big enameled dutch oven, or your crock pot. Open the canned whole tomatoes, dump them in and smoosh them with your clean hands (or your potato masher if you're a big wimp). Dump in the other tomatoes and sauce, and add the garlic and herbs. Set aside.
Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium. Add the olive oil and the veggies and sauté until they begin to soften. Add them to the sauce. Now turn up the heat to medium high and brown the sausages on all sides. When they are on their last side, pour the wine over them and cook it down for just a couple minutes while you deglaze the bottom of the pan. Toss all that in to the sauce. Stir. Cover and put in the oven (or the crock pot on high) for two and half to three hours. Go past that at your own risk (the tomato starts to taste burn-y) or else have that oven at 300* from the get-go and cross your fingers.
About half an hour before you're ready to have dinner, put on the pasta pot and follow the package directions to cook the noodles of your choice. While the water is heating, take the dutch oven out of the oven and remove the sausages to a plate to cool a few minutes. While they cool, take your stick blender or your potato masher and puree the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust any seasoning (need more garlic? more herbs? more hot pepper? Possibly salt?) Once they're cool enough to handle, slice them or dice them and put them back in the sauce. Or, leave them whole. Since we don't do the whole primo/secundo thing at our house, I like to dice them up so I get yummy sausage in every bite.
When your pasta is done (don't overcook it!!), reserve about half a cup of the pasta water before you drain it. Return the pasta to the pasta pot, and put in a couple cups of the sauce and the pasta water. Stir it all together. Serve, garnished with a good freshly grated pecorino romano and red pepper flakes, and extra sauce on the side.
This sauce is also really good over polenta. It freezes beautifully, too.