For Takeout staff writer Angela Pagán, tamales are a family Christmas tradition. Specifically batches of pork and ancho chile tamales that she used to make with her grandmother Nanni, who passed away this autumn at the age of 86. Despite the loss, this year won’t be any different, as Pagán, who sits right next to me at the office, has promised to make the tamales, just like every other year of her life, and the recipe can now be yours.
She’s documented the family recipe on a site called Familia Kitchen, which collects and publishes recipes from Spanish-speaking heritages, in order to keep family heirloom recipes alive.
“In my 25 years of life there has not been a single year I did not have these tamales,” she said, to Familia Kitchen. ”These tamales were and will continue to only be made on Christmas Eve, Noche Buena. We do not make them one day sooner.”
Pagán’s grandmother was known as the family cook, who made sure her family was happily fed with traditional Mexican dishes.
“My grandma was born and raised in Linares, Nuevo León, but her adult life was spent in Monterrey. As the oldest of 10, she left school at a very, very young age to help raise her nine siblings. She learned to master traditional, homemade meals. Everyone always looked to her as a mom, a caregiver,” she said about Nanni.
I asked Pagán if there’s any tips or tricks she can give people who make her family’s tamale recipes, and she said, “I’d say make sure you have some time on your hands when it comes to assembly. This is a group effort, so set up a TV or blast some music because it’s going to take a while to assemble all those tamales.”
Making food with family is fun, and for Pagán I’m sure it’s a bittersweet celebration this year. Let’s give Nanni’s recipe some love, and though it’s a large scale recipe, you can scale it down to your desired serving sizes using a scaling calculator (such as this one).
If you enjoyed the recipe, you can even vote for it on the Familia Kitchen website, but no matter what, I’m sure it’ll be a delicious Christmas for the Pagán family, as always. Are there traditional family dishes that you must have every year that really define a holiday for you, and what are they?