How to Throw a Tamale Party

Post By Olivia Martino Blodgett, Registered Dietitian and Owner

Every year when we plan our staff holiday party we know that it must include one thing: good food.  The first few years we took a cooking class as a group and had a great time. The past few years we have been wanting to do that again but were unable to find a menu that appealed to us.  Then it occurred to me, we teach cooking classes and we can make whatever menu we want!!!! 

I had been wanting to learn to make tamales for awhile and I knew that it was a festive tradition that was great for large groups.  So after a lot of internet research I settled on two recipes: Green Chili Pork and Queso with Roasted Poblanos. I am clearly no expert on this subject but we had a ton of fun and we made some really tasty tamales! I heavily relied on this article for recipes and for detailed instructions with photos. Here are the steps we followed:

Gather Ingredients

I found most of what I needed at the Portland Mercado, including some insider tips.  I got my corn husks, fresh lard, masa, amazing fresh made local Mexican Cheese and salsa.  All that was left was the peppers and pork ingredients, which I got at New Seasons.

Prepare The Fillings

The day before our party I prepared the pork carnitas and roasted the peppers.  I am not a big pork fan but this recipe was truly delicious.  Make sure to set aside a good four hours to be around the house while it slow cooks.  

Pork Carnitas

recipe from seriouseats.com

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 medium orange
  • 6 cloves garlic, split in half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Green Chili Sauce

  • 4 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 medium jalapeño
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked, washed, and halved
  • 3 mediums cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 cup packed roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar, to taste

Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Split onion into quarters. Set aside. Season pork chunks with 1 tablespoon salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours. 

Set large fine-meshed strainer 1 quart liquid measure or bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. You should end up with about 1/2 cup liquid and 1/2 cup fat. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface and add back to pork. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Prepare green chili sauce. Preheat broiler. Roast poblanos and jalapeño peppers directly over the flame of a gas stove, grill, or under a hot broiler, turning occasionally, until skin is completely charred and blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Using paper towels, run off charred skins, then stem and seed peppers. Transfer to the jar of a blender and set aside.Meanwhile, place tomatillos on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Broil until tomatillos have charred and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender with peppers, along with any liquid.Add garlic, cilantro, chicken stock and lime juice and puree until smooth. Transfer salsa to a large bowl and season with salt and sugar to taste. Stir into shredded pork and set under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, or until brown and crispy on top.

Queso and Roasted Poblano

Ingredients

  • 6 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 pound Oaxacan or Queso Panela cheese

Directions

Roast peppers directly over the flame of a gas stove, grill, or under a hot broiler, turning occasionally, until skin is completely charred and blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Using paper towels, rub off charred skin, then stem and seed poblanos. Slice peppers into strips 1/4 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long. Store in a container in the fridge until ready to use.  Pull cheese into thin strips approximately 3-inches long and store in separate container.

Prepare Your Tamale Dough

recipe from seriouseats.com

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh masa for tamales from a tortilleria or 3 cups of masa harina para tamales mixed with 2 cups water or chicken stock and left to rest, covered, for 15 minutes 
  • 8 ounces lard
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Directions

Combine lard, salt, and baking powder and, using an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until well whipped, about 1 minute

Add one-fourth of the masa at a time to the lard, beating between additions until thoroughly incorporated. Add chicken stock and continue beating until dough is light and has a soft and spreadable hummus-like texture. Cover masa with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove masa from refrigerator and re-whip, adding additional chicken stock 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to return it to original hummus-like texture. Use tamale dough in any tamale recipe (see links above for ideas, assembly, and cooking instructions).

Soak Corn Husks

At least one hour prior to making your tamales, place corn husks in warm water so they become pliable.

Assemble Your Tamales

This is where the real group effort comes in.  I had everything prepared to this point and then when everyone arrived all we had to do was assemble. With 7 people, we were able to make about 50 tamales in less than a half hour.  I wished we had filling for more, since this part was so easy and fun.

Working one at a time, place a corn husk on work surface. Place 2-3 tablespoons of tamale dough on larger end of husk and spread into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of husk. Place a few strips of peppers and cheese down center of dough, or a couple of tablespoons of pork. Fold over sides of husk so dough surrounds filling, then fold bottom of husk up and secure closed by tying a thin strip pulled from another husk around tamale. Repeat with remaining husks, dough, and filling.

For help with folding techniques, we watched this video and decided to use the simple tuck for the cheese tamales and the belt for the pork tamales.
 
Steam the Tamales
Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Rest tamales upright in a steamer insert or on rack above the water level. Cover and steam until dough is cooked through and pulls away easily from the husk, about 1 hour. This is a perfect time to snack on chips and salsa and sip on Sangria.  Time to relax!
 
Remove tamales from steamer and let rest until dough firms slightly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to four months. Defrost and reheat tamales in steamer until warmed through or in microwave on high for 2 minutes.

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