Broken Spanish's Lamb Neck Tamal

Tamales are an ancient dish that goes back to 7000 B.C., where Aztec women also came to the battlefield to help prepare sustenance for their warriors. The dish is portable, hearty and could be warmed as needed. The time and labor-intensive dish has seen many iterations over the centuries, finding itself stuffed with various kinds of meats, cheeses or vegetables, and often served on special occasions such as Christmas. But arguably, the tamal has found its most exciting expression in Chef Ray Garcia's version. As author Bill Esparza writes, "In Mexico, modern chefs don’t serve traditional tamales on rectangular plates; the idea of an 'elevated' tamal only exists at places like Red O, and even then, it’s only elevated in price. Fortunately, Alta California chefs like Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish have bent the rules and given me cause to consider the fine dining tamal." Learn how to make this delectable tamal.


for lamb tamal

Learn more about Chef Ray Garcia and other chefs at the forefront of the 'Alta California' food movement in Los Angeles on "The Migrant Kitchen." Watch now.

2.5 oz. Masa (see below)
1.25 oz. Lamb Neck Filling (see below)
1 Tbsp. Oaxaca Cheese (grated)
Corn husks (as needed)

for masa
62 oz. Masa
26.5 oz. Manteca
Water (as needed)
Salt (to taste)

for lamb neck filling
15 lb. Lamb Neck
1.75 oz. Cumin Seed “toasted and grounded” 
Kosher salt  & Black Pepper (to taste)
5 White onions quartered
2 Bay leaves
Mexican Oregano (to taste)
4 qts. Water
8 medium-sized carrots
9 oz. Garlic cloves
2 Qts. Roasted trumpet mushrooms
1 Qt. Guajillo puree
Chile de arbol (to taste)

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Ray Garcia's Lamb Neck Tamal from Broken Spanish | Courtesy of Life & Thyme

Ray Garcia's Lamb Neck Tamal from Broken Spanish | Courtesy of Life & Thyme


for masa
1. Place manteca into a mixer and cream out.
2. Slowly add masa until it is fully combined.
3. Add water until muffin batter consistency is achieved.
4. Season with salt. 

for lamb neck filling
1. Bring to room temp the lamb necks and remove cartilage.
2. Season heavily with salt, pepper, and ground cumin.
3. Let sit for 30 min. allowing seasoning to settle in.
4. Heavily coat lamb necks with Guajillo paste and set on top of perforated pan.

1. Set up a large soup pan with water, bay leaves, onions, carrots, garlic and Mexican oregano using the perforated holder for the lamb neck. 
2. Lightly cover lamb neck with foil and bring to a simmer for 10 hrs at 185 degrees. 
3. Strain cooking liquid (but reserve 2 quarts. Set aside).
4. Remove meat from bone.
5. In a large stock pot, combine lamb meat, mushrooms, guajillo puree, and 2 qts reserved cooking liquid.
6. Bring to a simmer. 
7. Season with salt and chile de arbol.
8. Let cool.

assemble the tamal
1. Lay out corn husk flat. 
2. Spread masa into a large rectangular shape evenly.
3. Sprinkle the cheese and place filling in the middle.
4. Fold properly.
5. Cook at 200 degrees for 48 min inside the oven. 
6. Let cool and unwrap.
7. Griddle in a pan until golden brown and serve.


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