For years, making tamales has been a Christmas Eve tradition in our family. The tradition has been carried over to our children and their families. This year, we are spending Christmas with our daughter, Carol, and her family in Los Angeles, but we decided not to make our own tamales but rather get them from a well-known Los Angeles institution where many of the locals get their Christmas tamal fix.  We drove to Downey where one of three branches of Porto’s Bakery is located.

We tried to get there early, but 8:30 was not soon enough, especially since the store opened at 6:30. We were warned that on Christmas Eve morning the line would be long, but we were not prepared. The line started at the corner next to the traffic light, stretched down the street to the alley, past the bank building on the corner, back up the sidewalk, and a cross a courtyard. Not to worry, we were told, the line would move fast. And it did. After an hour in line, visiting with strangers, accepting business cards from others, and generally having a good time, we made it to the front door.

Inside, there were yet more lines: one for those who wanted only cakes and another – much longer – for those who wanted pastries and other baked goods. The line was cleverly and artfully arranged so that the final pass before you were beckoned to one of the many clerks was right in front of the pastry display. After that, how could you resist ordering one of everything?

Carol placed her order to include caramel eclairs, deep-fried potato balls, and several versions of tarts and cakelets. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, Porto’s had run out of their famous tamales.


Our Christmas Eve meal was saved by my forethought to bring some frozen tamales from Santa Fe, but the memory of all of that sugar lives on. We also plan to have green chile stew. Carol does not like onion, an essential part of green chile stew, so for this version, the onion will be pulverized in a food processor, but you can just chop it if you prefer.

For Christmas Day, we will be more unconventional. Carol’s oven is seriously broken, so traditional turkey or goose is out of the question. Instead, we will feast on shrimp and grits. Perhaps we have started a new tradition.

In any event we wish all of my blogging friends a very Merry Christmas.


Green Chile Stew


  • 2 pounds pork stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 7 ounces canned chopped green chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • water, enough to cover meat and onions
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano leaves, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large avocado, diced (optional)
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)


  1. In a large,  heavy-bottomed pot brown the stew meat in the oil. When it is well-browned, remove to a plate, and dd the onions to the pot, adding more oil if needed. Cook covered over medium heat until translucent but not browned. Return the stew meat to the pot.
  2. Stir in the green chiles and garlic, cooking for a few minutes before stirring in the flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to remove the taste of raw flour. Then add enough water (Use chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer) to cover the meat and onions. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for about an hour or until the pork is tender.
  3. Stir in the cubed potatoes, adjust the level of liquid with more water or stock as needed, and return to a slow boil for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and more cumin and oregano if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls with diced avocados, grated cheese, and sour cream for garnish.



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