• Beef Cheeks and Wine Tamales


Nose-To-Tail Tamales

By Alice Guadalupe Tapp

For me, beef cheeks are simple and sublime, and this recipe makes them so. It is almost like making stew or an easy version of boeuf bourguignon. Make this even simpler by using a slow cooker or pressure cooker.

Recipe from Alice Guadalupe Tapp’s new cookbook Tamales. Order your copy here.

Beef Cheeks and Wine Tamales


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef cheeks, cut into 2-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour (use rice flour if gluten free)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet or Maggi sauce
  • 8 cups Basic Fresh Masa

Basic Masa

  • 1 pound butter or margarine, softened
  • 5 pounds stone ground fresh masa (unprepared)
  • 2 to 3 cups stock (chicken, pork, beef, or vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoons salt (or less to taste)



In a large frying pan or heavy pot, heat the olive oil over high heat and brown the beef in batches (each batch should take 5 to 7 minutes); set aside. Turn down the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until soft and golden, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan as they loosen. Add the flour, stirring and cooking for a few more minutes. Add the wine, finish scraping all the bits and cooked meat juices off the bottom of the pan, and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the browned beef, carrots, garlic, herbs, Kitchen Bouquet or Maggi sauce, and enough water to cover. Return to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, or until fork-tender. Or cover the pot and place in a 325°F oven for 2 hours, until fork-tender. Check and stir often, and add water a little at a time, if needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Allow to cool completely.

Assemble the tamales, using 1/4 cup masa and 1/4 cup filling for each tamale. Transfer to a steamer and steam for 55 minutes.

Basic Fresh Masa

To make this type of masa dough, my grandmother used lard, and my mother used vegetable shortening or a combination of both. I switched to butter. Traditional cooks use even more fat than what is called for here, but I think this 1:5 ratio of butter to masa is perfect. Feel free to use your preference of lard, shortening, butter, or margarine.



Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add one-third of the fresh masa alternating with one-third of the stock, then add the salt. Beat until well mixed, adding more stock if needed, turn the mixer to high, and beat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the dough resembles spackling paste.

Take a small piece (about 1/2 teaspoon) of the dough and drop it into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it is ready; if it sinks, whip for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats.

Note: The fresher the masa, the faster it will become light and fluffy enough for use.

Reprinted with permission from Tamales, by Alice Guadalupe Tapp, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Sara Remington.

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