Guest Post: Fun, Friends and Tamales
I asked Megan if she’d be willing to share her tamalada hosting tips after our fine and fabulous afternoon of tamale-making last month. We sat around the table with bottles of Topo Chico, pumpkin beers and Megan’s frozen watermelon margaritas (a genius way to use up one of her last CSA melons).
In total I paid $12 to cover my share of our collective supplies plus the cost of making my filling contribution. I came home with 5 full bags of freezer-ready tamales that can be popped out of frozen hibernation in a jiffy and steamed for a no- or low-prep dinner. I also discovered that spreading masa is one of my new favorite stress-relieving activities, just like icing a cake, but with less sugar involved.
Hi HGGH readers! Even though this is a Christmas tradition in Texas, there’s no reason you can’t make tamales after, or even in January! Use it as an excuse to reconnect with friends after the stress of the holidays.
When making tamales (especially if you’re not an old hand) it can be hard to estimate how much of each ingredient you need. Everyone has their own “perfect ratio” of masa and filling, and different wrapping methods create different-size tamales. I prefer smaller, single-husk tamales (a dozen fit perfectly into a quart freezer bag) while others make double-husk tied tamales.
Here are my top tips for hosting a tamalada!
1) Plan to have at least five people in attendance. This will give you one person to mix the masa, two to spread, and two to fill and roll. More people will make the work easier, of course.
2) Overbuy on masa, husks, and fat. Most chain grocery stores will let you return unopened packages, and even if you can’t return them, masa and husks don’t spoil per se, and leftover fats can be used in myriad ways. To make 480 tamales, we used 2 bags of instant masa (Maseca brand is gluten-free—they don’t produce any products with wheat), 2 bags of husks, and approximately 80 ounces of fat.
3) Have each person bring at least three quarts of filling, and try to organize it such that the fillings are all different.
4) If you don’t have an electric mixer, forget it. I’m serious about this one. Borrow one if you don’t have it.
5) Have extra tools. This means extra mixing bowls, spatulas (both rubber and metal offset), aprons, cutting boards for work surfaces, freezer bags, folding tables if needed, large platters or baking dishes for stacking finished tamales, and even extra mixers if you can.
6) Make sure at least two people know how to do every step. I failed to teach one of my guests how to mix the masa, and while those assembling the tamales got to sit, I spent most of the afternoon stationed at the stand mixer, mixing batch after batch of masa. Most people will likely want to trade tasks at some point.
7) Keep your finished tamales divided by filling. When everything is wrapped, it’s hard to tell the difference between pork, beef, and venison fillings. Chances are you’ll be making more tamales than will fit on the platter or baking dish, so be sure to put them into labeled freezer bags whenever a tray fills up.
8) Snacks! Be sure to have plenty to munch on for the day. No one wants to be making food for hours and not have any available to eat. Handheld food works best in my opinion, but steaming up your first batch of tamales makes for a great break in the day.
9) On fats: use local lard if you can get it. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the flavor and texture is excellent and I’m one of those people who feels better knowing where my food comes from. Shortening is fine for vegetarian tamales, but solid coconut oil is an excellent solution as well. Coconut oil can be bought online for much cheaper than in stores.
For basic recipes and a video on how to fill and roll a tamale, head over here. Happy tamale time!