Elvira (Vera) Apodaca was born in El Paso, Texas in 1908. Her mother had immigrated to America from Mexico, and nearly the entire family—Elvira, her mother, father, grandparents, brothers and sisters moved to Arizona when a family friend told them that their prospects would be better there. Nearly everyone lived in the same neighborhood, on the same block, and Sunday dinners were a regular event. Elvira was a great cook and even though she had heart trouble after her last child was born, she didn’t stop cooking—she just enlisted the help of her son, Joe, and other family members.
What’s most important about Elvira’s story is her legacy of the Green Corn Tamale. (A “tamale” is typically a stuffed dry corn husk filled with anything from meat to masa [corn flour] and other tasty ingredients.) Each year a local farmer came to Elvira’s neighborhood with fresh-picked white corn. Elvira would buy a bunch and gather all her family members to begin stripping the fresh green corn husks from the cob, shaving and crushing the fresh corn kernels, and then making a special mixture to fill the husks with only a touch of corn flour. What makes these tamales so special is that they are primarily made with fresh corn and then wrapped in fresh, rather than dry, corn husks. What also makes them special to the Apodaca family is that everyone was involved in the process—everyone helped fill and steam them, and no one will ever forget those special moments.
Elvira passed away some years ago, and all her children have been struggling to replicate her famous fresh corn tamales ever since. At family reunions there are competitions for who can make the most authentic version of Elvira’s tamale. The family has compiled a cookbook with many versions of Elvira’s tamales. One recipe from Joe’s cousin, Rudy begins with: “It is important to understand that making tamales must be approached with a correct and proper attitude since it has a long and famous history. It is arduous work…and long experience has confirmed that at a minimum each participant must take at least one shot of tequila before starting to spread tamales. This is a necessity if proper results are to be achieved, and failure to do so is at your own risk…” we didn’t take a shot of tequila before we began making our tamales, but without the help of an entire family, we sure needed one by the time we were done! Enjoy!
Lunch / Dinner
Mexican Chopped Salad
this is not one of Elvira’s dishes, but it’s really good and goes really well with her other specialties. with grilled chicken, shredded lettuce, roasted corn, diced tomatoes, red onions, avocado, crispy tortillas, cheddar & cotija cheese
Fresh Corn Tamales
tamales may seem simple, but they are hard work! What makes these unusual is that they are made with FRESH corn, shaved off the cob, only a little masa harina (corn flour), roasted anaheim peppers, just a little cheddar cheese and then wrapped in the corn husk. served with refried pinto beans, spanish rice & tortillas
Braised Pork Coloradito
slow-cooked pork with a mild new mexico red chile sauce, served with refried pinto beans, spanish rice & tortillas
Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)
baked with walnuts & raisins, served with a cajeta (slow-cooked caramel) sauce
Mango Cadillac Margarita
with mango-infused Sauza Gold, Grand Marnier & fresh juices