Main Dish

Acorn Squash Tamales with Mole and Goat Cheese

ACORN Winery/Alegria Vineyards

12040 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg, CA 95448

  • RECIPE YEAR: 2019
  • RECIPE BY: Recipe by Marianna Gardenhire, Backyard
  • YIELD: Serves 6
  • PAIRS WELL WITH: Heritage Vines Zinfandel

Backyard Restaurant Chef Marianna Gardenhire created a Mexican-inspired, Sonoma-centric recipe to pair with ACORN Winery’s Heritage Vines Zinfandel, from our sustainable and historic Alegría Vineyards. This culinary experience honors and celebrates our land’s history as part of a Mexican land grant. We use acorn squash grown by New Family Farm in Sebastopol.

Tamale Masa

  • 2 1/2 cups ground masa harina (corn flour), plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Olive Queen Spanish blend olive oil (refrigerate 1 hour to solidify)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, plus more if needed
To make the tamale masa, in a bowl, stir together the masa harina, garlic powder, baking powder and salt. Add the cold olive oil and using a spatula or your hands, slowly incorporate it into the masa mixture. The olive oil will warm up and mix into a crumbly texture. 

Slowly add the stock and mix well into a thick, spreadable paste. If it is too thin, slowly add a small amount of masa. If it is too thick, add a bit more broth. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before using.

Acorn Squash Filling

  • 3 tablespoon Olive Queen Spanish blend olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onions
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup currants
To prepare the acorn squash filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, pour in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat for about 1 minute. Add the yellow onions, squash and salt and cook, stirring continuously, until the onions and squash are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, cinnamon, cumin, Aleppo pepper, garlic, green onions, currants and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, just enough to release the aromas from the spices. 

Transfer the filling to a bowl and let cool. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Add more Aleppo pepper to spice it up, if you like. 

Chocolate Mole

  • 2 dried mulato chiles
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles
  • 1 dried chilhuacle negro chile
  • 2 tablespoons raw almonds
  • 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Queen Spanish blend olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 tomatillos, diced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped GMO-free corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
  • 2 1/2 ounces Volo 73% deep dark chocolate bar, chopped
To make the chocolate mole, place a cast-iron pot over medium heat. Using a dry-heat method (cooking without oil or fat), add the chiles to the pot and toast for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the almonds and sesame seeds to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Do not allow them to turn dark brown. Transfer to the plate with the chiles.

In the same pot over medium heat, pour in the olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the onion, tomato, tomatillos and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato and tomatillos are broken down, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice, oregano and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to blacken. Slowly add the broth, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in the reserved chiles, almonds and sesame seeds. Add the tortillas, sugar and chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated.

Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer the mole to a small pot and keep warm until ready to use.

Tamale Wrap (Choose one option)

  • 1 package corn husks, soaked in water for 2 hours
  • 1 package banana leaves, thawed and cut into 15-by-8-inch pieces

Goat Cheese Garnish

  • 1/2 pound Bohemian Creamery’s Caproncino goat cheese, peeled into ribbons


To assemble and cook the tamales, in a large steamer pot, pour in 2 to 3 inches of water. You do not want the tamales to be sitting in water, but you want enough water so it doesn't run out. Place a few of the corn husks or banana leaves on the bottom, covering the entire area. This creates a barrier between the tamales and water. 

Lay out 1 corn husk or banana leaf on a flat surface. Using a spoon, spread 3 tablespoons of the masa out onto the wrapping, forming a rectangle large enough to enclose the filling. (Dip your hands into a bit of water to keep the masa from sticking to them). Add 2 tablespoons of the acorn squash filling to the center of the masa. Fold the corn husk in half vertically, then very carefully fold the husk in half so that the masa wraps completely around the filling. Fold the top, narrow end down, to enclose one end of the tamale. Don't wrap it too tightly, as the masa will expand. One end of the tamale will be left open. You can tie the tamale using pieces of the corn husk, banana leaf or butcher's twine. Repeat to fill and fold the remaining tamales.

Place the tamales, open end up, in the lined steamer pot. Cover the pot with a lid and place over medium heat. Steam for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, checking to make sure the tamales are cooked through.  

Remove the tamales from the steamer and let rest for 5 minutes before unwrapping.

To serve, unwrap each tamale and place on a plate. Top with the warm mole sauce and ribbons of goat cheese. 

ACORN Winery/Alegria Vineyards

12040 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg, CA 95448