Serious Eats: Recipes

Southern Foodways' Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

Among the more curious dishes in The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook are these Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales. Tamales are traditionally Mexican, and the tale of how they made their way into the canon of Southern cooking more than a century ago is a truly American one. There are many takes on the story, but they all have something to do with Mexican laborers migrating north from Texas to pick cotton. There they shared their corn husk-wrapped snacks with African-American laborers and the tradition of the Mississippi Delta tamale was born. For more info on the fascinating American tamale check out The Southern Foodways Alliance's Tamale Trail project.

While these Southern tamales might not look all that dissimilar from their south-of-the-border cousins, this version uses coarse ground corn meal as opposed to a finer maseca. Instead of stuffing the tamales with a salsa or mole-stewed meat, these are filled with a mix that's very similar to chili, using paprika, onion and garlic powder, cayenne, cumin, and a good amount of chili powder—giving them a very American flavor profile, far more at home at a fried chicken joint than a taqueria.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook to give away this week.

Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook by John T. Edge and Sara Roahen. Copyright © 2010. Published by University of Georgia Press. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

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