For years I'd tried to find a spinach tamale filling similar to one I've tasted in restaurants, to no avail. Finally, I decided to make my own and this recipe has proved every bit as delicious as what I tasted in restaurants - this filling is so very good! Use your favorite prepared masa to make it into tamales, or mix your own. (Time does not include making the filling into tamales.)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 -6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 scallions, minced (aka green onion)
- 2 lbs cremini mushrooms, brushed, sliced, and chopped
- 2 lbs Baby Spinach, chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 -3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste
- 2⁄3 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
- 1 cup crema
- Begin with the spinach by washing, stemming, and chopping it into approximately 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. Mince the garlic and onions; brush, slice, and chop the mushrooms.
- Over medium-high heat in a *very* large pot (I use my largest Le Creuset) heat the oil. Add the minced garlic and scallion and sauté quickly, stirring, for about 20 seconds (careful not to burn the garlic!).
- Quickly decrease the temperature to medium and add the sliced mushrooms, and allow to sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped spinach, salt, sugar, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. (This step is admittedly the messiest part of making the filling, because spinach is so much larger before it cooks down; I usually add it about a 1/3 at a time to the large pot, stir it and wait for it to cook down a bit, and add more until I've got all of it into the pot. Cover it for about 2 minutes, stir again and uncover, and continue cooking.) Sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.
- Pour cooked mixture into a colander and allow to drain - if you like, you can reserve the juices for making sauce for the tamales after they're cooked or for some other use.
- Lower the temperature to low and add the crema and cotija and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring so that it's mixed well and the cheeses do not scald. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Use as filling for your tamales and enjoy! I prefer to make a simple crema and garlic sauce for these tamales, but a red sauce is also good (although it can overpower the lighter tasting tamales, so you'll want to be careful). Also, although the small amount of salt might not seem like enough when reading through the recipe, remember that cotija cheese is salty - it provides plenty of seasoning to the filling.