Monday, December 18, 2006


Masa purchased 'prepped" meaning the masa was already mixed with lard to the correct consistency
Corn husks soaking
Pork mixed with chile sauce made from dried New Mexico chiles and California chiles with seasonings. The meat is cooked the night before and refrigerated. This assures that the meat mixture is chilled and fats congealed. This assures that the meat does not dry out when the tamale is steamed. Think about it. If a warmed meat mixture was used the juices would run off the meat remaining in the container prior to when rolled in the tamale. Less moisture in the meat means a dry tamale.

Other ingredients typically used to fill tamales includes chicken, beef, or roasted chiles with cheese. Be creative.

Though the masa was purchased prepped, it is very important to add additional flavoring. Here I am mixing the masa with some of the chile sauce and broth from the cooked pork. This lightens the masa dough for a less dense tamale. The end point of this addition of flavors is by feel. Getting your hands all in it to mix is essential.

Here I am being taught the tamale roll technique by a master.

The teacher and all her pupils. Tamale parties or family gatherings have a greater significance than merely preparing tamales. It is an opportunity for families and friends to spend time together drinking, gossiping, laughng and having a good time. Traditionally tamales are an essential food for the Christmas holidays and New Years. Many dozens are usually prepared to give as gifts to neighbors, friends and families.

Once rolled, the tamales are placed in a steamer. It is important to not allow them to come in contact with standing water in the steamer. If you don't have a special steamer, simply using a stock pot with an elevated rack or just a pie plate with holes punched in it and placed upside down in the bottom of a stock pot will work. A cotton towel is placed over the top of the tamales, then the lid. After about an hour and 15 minutes, the tamales are ready. You can test for doneness by unwrapping a sample. If the masa separates from the corn husk easily, they are done and ready to be served with beans and rice.

See Flickr Photo set of more highlights of the tamales party.

The below recipe is not the one we used during the party. This one uses smoked pulled pork which adds another layer of flavor. Since pulled pork is my specialty, I thought this recipe would be of interest.

Tamale Recipe From BBQ Brethren Site Courtesy of Thirdeye

Bags of dried corn husks are available in most markets in the Mexican food section. They need to be soaked in warm water for about an hour, separated and rinsed clean of any dried silks, and kept moist for rolling in a dish pan.

Three ground chili powders (with no other spices added) and one chili powder blend are used to get a traditional flavor footprint that is sweet, smokey and hot. The total amount of the chili powder is 1 cup + 2 tablespoons. Ground chili peppers and blends can be found at if you can’t find some local substitutes. The filling must be quite robust because the steaming and the masa will buffer the flavor and the heat factor a little.

7 or 8 pounds of pulled pork butt (medium to fine shreds).
¼ cup Chimayo chili powder
¼ cup Tularosa chili powder
2 tablespoons Mulato chili powder
½ cup Top Hat chili powder blend
¼ cup cumin
1-1/2 tablespoons crushed tepin peppers.
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic powder.
Chicken broth & water - about 4 cups total

Place the pulled pork in a large Dutch oven or roaster. Add all of the ingredients except the broth and water, mix in well. Add about half of the broth and water, mixing in well. Bring this mixture to a simmer in order to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid at least once more and continue to reduce until the filling is just a little soupy, then set aside to cool. Once the mixture has begun the first reduction, the Dutch oven can be transferred to your cooker, at around 275° grate temperature, to receive a little smoke flavor during the final stages of the reduction.
Fresh masa keeps in the refrigerator for a few days and also freezes well, it comes in 1 or 5 pound blocks. Add warm water or broth and work into a dough with a spongy texture. For the mixes, follow the directions on the bag. The dough needs to be spreadable and can be moistened during the assembly if it becomes too stiff.

Everyone has a different masa spreading technique and have a favorite tool. I like a triangular shaped pie serving utensil. A wide putty knife or small triangle trowel works well too. It is best to have an assembly line with one person spreading and another filling and rolling. I like to use a big cutting board for the assembly. And work at the kitchen table. A glass of warm water is handy for dunking the spreading tool.

Remove a few husks from the dishpan and shake off any water. Tear them so that they are about five fingers wide. Husks have a coarse side and a smoother side. Lay one husk on the work surface and spread about 2 tablespoons of masa onto the smooth side of the husk forming a thin even layer. (TIP: A sprinkle of chili powder can be added to the masa before adding the filling). Add about one fingers width of filling onto the masa and roll the tamale closed, then fold the narrow end down. These can be tied with strips of husk or stacked on a tray with the fold down.


Anonymous said...

Looks great! I've made them for years but was very interested in using the three different ground chili powders and I love the idea of the smoked pork.

Great pix, too. Thanks for the lesson.

maltese parakeet said...

how did i know that my mother would leave the first comment on this post?! this looks so fabulous! we always have tamales for christmas eve, but i've never actually made them myself. i'm feeling brave after reading your post!

Nicole said...

This is the second tamale post I've seen this week on my blog_list. You and the Homesick Texan in NYC :) 'Tis the season I suppose!


Bajabud said...

How did the asian inspired chicken, peppers, cashews and peppers match up with the tamales? Can I expect a margarita recipe sometime soon? That blended glass made me wonder if you're up to something over there...

Sylvie said...

Baja, Tamales were the focus of the party. The chicken dish was very good along with the fried rice and empanandas but since I got my hands in the tamales, I'm biased.

Margarita's are great for any party.

Anonymous said...

These is a great post and a great idea. I have never thought of having a food party, where everyone pitches in and learns a new food technique and has a good time.

I think I might put one of these together for after the new year. I just have to find someone that knows how to make tamales and we are good to go.


doodles said...

Oh my God all I can say is I am so lucy to know that I have family members that would make tamales. Your feast looks fabulous. Hope sister moon is taking notes ;)
Now I wanna have a food party.
Thanks Sylvie.

BBQ Junkie said...

It just wouldn't be xmas without tamales. Nice job Sylvie. BTW, a pasta pot can double as a tamale pot for small batches.

BBQ Junkie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
~thirdeye~ said...


I just stumbled onto your site and was honored to see my tamale recipe featured here among so many other good recipes.

I hope your readers enjoy it.