When I was growing up in Northern California there used to be an ad on the radio every Tuesday saying "Tuesday is Red's Tamale day!". I don't know who Red was and I didn't eat tamales as a child - I had my first tamale after I was 40 years old. Now I live in tamale country, so I recently ended up having a lot of leftover tamales and needed to do something interesting with them. I found a recipe for Tamale Casserole in one of my favorite cookbooks, "Tacos, Tortas and Tamales", by Roberto Santibanez. As usual, I tweaked it a bit so this is my version, taking into account that most readers won't have all the same ingredients available that I do here in Mexico.
> 10 leftover tamales
> 2 large (7 oz?) cans of diced chiles, or if you're up for more heat, 2 cans of rajas (sliced poblanos) or if you like to do things from scratch, 4-5 fresh poblano chiles
> 1 medium onion
> 12oz cheese (oaxaca, chihuauha,jack or cheddar or a combination), shredded or sliced thinly
> 1/4 cup of sour cream
> about 8oz of salsa, preferably a real Mexican variety like the one in the photo below - this shouldn't be too mild since it will be cut by the sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the husks from the tamales and roughly chop them into pieces of about 1".
Slice or dice the onion and cook it in a pan over medium heat until soft. Add the chiles (if you use fresh poblanos you'll have to char them, remove the skins and de-seed them, and cut them into slices or chop them).
In a baking pan or similar size casserole dish, layer the tamale pieces, the onion/chile mix, and the cheese. The dish I used here is about the size of a 9x9 pan, but about 1.5 or 2 times deeper, and the ingredients filled it to the top.
You'll end with a layer of cheese, but before you put that layer on...
Mix the salsa and the sour cream (or half and half, or canned milk if you don't have any sour cream), and pour evenly over the contents of the casserole. THEN add the last layer of cheese.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
If you like tamales, you'd love this casserole - it has the tamale taste but is much more flavorful. My husband called this dish "extraordinary!" - something he rarely says about food. This recipe could easily serve 6 people.