May 5 is Cinco de Mayo – a Mexican Celebration Day here in Southern California. Here’s an idea! Have a Tamale Party! A Tamale Making Party is so much fun! Start with freshly prepared masa and some margaritas! You can’t go wrong!
That’s what we did at our Tamale Cooking Class at the Holy Nativity Community Hall on April 12. Your guests will thank you for the opportunity and you won’t believe how great these tamales taste! They are so much fresher and tastier than anything you’ll find in your supermarket freezer or dare I say, at your local Mexican restaurant. They are super easy to make too. As Irma said, “Making Tamales is Addictive”. Your hands just keep rolling them up as you share great stories with friends and catch up on their lives.
Here’s the steps:
1. Purchase some freshly prepared masa and corn husks from your local Mexican store. I purchased 20 pounds of prepared masa at Ramona’s in Gardena, CA. They sell masa at the 13633 S. Western Ave location only in the Los Angeles area. This is a factory that makes fresh and frozen Mexican food. Prepared masa contains lard, which makes your tamales extra tasty. If you don’t want to eat meat products, make some Vegetarian Masa (see recipe below) OR purchase Melissa’s Tamale Kit which contains both the corn husks and a vegetarian masa mix that requires only water. (One kit makes a dozen tamales.)
2. Assemble your ingredients and sauces. The possible fillings for your tamales are endless and it’s a great way to use up leftovers in the frig. Here’s what was on our menu: Cooked Chicken Breast, Pork Loin Stew, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Corn, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives, Roasted Zucchini, Bell Peppers and Chilis, Caramelized Onion, Corn, Black Bean, Basil Pesto, Tomatillo Salsa, Mole Sauce, Parmesan Cheese, Feta Cheese, a combination of Cotija, Panela and Jack Cheese, Fresh Oregano, Cilantro, Green Onion, Jalapenos. A little of each filling goes a long way.
Try these combinations. First place 1/4 cup masa on the non-ridged side of the corn husk, then add the fillings and roll:
- Greek – Feta Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato, Kalamata Olives, Spinach
- Italian – Basil Pesto, Parmesan, Sun-Dried Tomato, Chard, Artichoke Heart
- Southwestern – Tomatillo Salsa, Cheese Blend, Green Chili, Black Bean
- Pork Chili – Pork stewed in Ancho Chili, Cheese Blend, Mushrooms, Spinach
- I could go on and on! There’s a million possible combinations.
3. The day of the party, soak plenty of corn husks at least an hour in plenty of water before guests arrive.
4. Have some chips and salsa to feed the troops! Have everyone make about three tamales to feed each of your troops and place them in the steamer for 30-40 minutes. Once steaming, make more for people to take home.
4. Demonstrate how to make the first tamale to your friends. Tear off a strip from a small corn husk to tie the ends. While there are many ways to roll up your tamales, the easiest method is to tie off both ends. This way the masa stays in place while steaming.
5. Prepare a steamer basket or two or three. A spaghetti pot with a collander insert works great for this. Put water in the bottom until it reaches the bottom of the insert, but so the tamales won’t be touching the water. Add the tamales and cover. Try not to peak inside, however you may need to add more water while steaming. There is much debate about steaming tamales. Some recipes tell you to steam for 2 hours!!! Don’t do it! You will end up with something resembling a hockey puck and you will never want to make tamales again. The best method is to steam the tamales just until the point that the masa pulls away from the husk. This should take 30-40 minutes. I like to make my tamales small so that there is more filling and less masa. They take less time to steam than a big fat one and have less calories too! After 30 minutes, pull out one tamale and open it up to see if the masa pulls away from the husk. It should still be soft, but not creamy. Think omelet consistency.
6. While your tamales are steaming, get the blender going with the margaritas or open a bottle of wine. Toss a simple lettuce salad; and as Larry suggested, toss in any leftover filling ingredients. Larry was recruited to class by his wife, Patti from Worth the Whisk. Check out her blogpost featuring our class too.
8. Make up some dessert tamales. You can’t go wrong with chocolate, dried fruits and nuts! Guest Chef, Tim McCarthy of San Angel Mole created this fab recipe for Pumpkin Tamales. Stir together a 15 oz can of pumpkin, 1 1/2# masa, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves. The team of Sara and Mike added in some dried cherries and slivered almonds. Serve it with a heavenly Creamy Cajeta (Caramel) sauce made from a can of Carnation Dulce de Leche mixed with a 15 oz jar of Crema Fresca and 1 tsp vanilla. Oh I wish I had more of that right now!!
- 6 cups corn masa flour (Masa Harina)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- 1 cup canola oil
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tbs vegetable base mixed into water
1. In large mixing bowl, add corn masa flour, salt and baking powder. Add oil and then water or vegetable broth and stir. As you continue to stir, the masa will absorb more of the water and you will end up with a smooth paste like mixture.
2. Press a 1/4 cup ball of masa into wet corn husks. Add desired fillings. Roll up to enclose and tie ends.
3. Place tamales in a steamer and steam 30-40 minutes or until tamales pull away from wrappers.
Servings: 36 small/medium size tamales