When I was little, my family would have a Tamalada. We would all get together and help make dozens and dozens of tamales. Each one of us had a role that helped the process go smoother. You had your spreaders, fillers, and rollers. It had been many, many years since I had attended a Tamalada and I knew I needed some guidance before taking on this task. I was able to attend a tamale making class by Chef JD Valdez. He will come to your house and show you all the basics. What I learned that day was instrumental in the success of my own Tamalada.
Day 1 - Prep Work
5-8 pound Boneless Boston Butt Pork Roast (trim large pieces of fat and cut into chunks)
1 onion quartered
2 jalapenos (place small slits in peppers)
8 dried guajillo peppers (tops cut off, seeds and membranes removed)
1 32-ounce container Chicken broth
salt, pepper, and oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss pork chunks with enough oil, salt, and pepper to coat all pieces. Place pork chunks in a hot dutch oven a few pieces at a time and brown evenly on all sides. You will need to do this in batches. When all the chunks are browned, place them back in the Dutch oven, add onion, guajillos, jalapenos, and enough broth to just cover. Braise in oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Once pork is done, remove chunks from broth, cool, and shred. Reserve 6 cups of strained broth.
15 - 18 seeded and toasted dried guajillo peppers
2 serranos, seeded and cut into strips
2 jalapenos, seeded and cut into strips
1 medium onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, diced
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced
2 tsp each - salt, black pepper, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, & Mexican oregano
1 32-ounce container Chicken broth
Crumble or tear the guajillos into small pieces and add to a medium sized sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, jalapenos, and serranos. Heat for a few minutes and then add just enough oil to coat everything and sautee until onions and garlic are tender and guajillos have softened. Add tomatoes and spices. Continue cooking until tomatoes break down. Add broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Place in blender and mix until smooth. Taste to see if more salt or black pepper needs to be added. Reserve 2 cups of sauce for masa. Add remaining sauce to the shredded pork until moistened. You can add a little of the reserve pork broth if you don't have enough sauce, but you should have plenty. It should be moist, but not soupy.
THE CORN HUSKS
Day 2 - Tamale Assembly
8 cups Maseca Tamal (Masa Harina for tamales)
6 cups reserved and strained broth
2 cups reserved red sauce
2 TBSP each: salt, garlic powder, baking powder
2 cups lard (may substitute Crisco shortening)
In a LARGE bowl mix broth, red sauce, salt, and garlic powder. Gradually add the 8 cups Maseca and mix with a spatula or your hands. Use a hand mixer to make sure the liquid and masa are well blended. If mixture is too thick add more broth, if its too thin add more Maseca. In a separate bowl, whip the lard until its somewhat fluffy. Add the lard to masa and mix until lard in completely incorporated into the masa. Add the 2 tablespoons of baking powder and mix well. Let rest for 10 minutes.
When that last excruciating hour has passed, it is now time to test a tamale. They will still be really hot, so be careful. Remove the lid quickly to avoid condensate dripping on the tamales. Remove corn husks from the top and take out a tamale. The tamale should peel away easily from the husk if they are cooked properly.
If making tamales is not your thing, my favorite places in the Houston area to buy tamales are at Balderas Tamale Factory, Alamo Tamale Company, Gerardo's, and The Pastry War. However, for a fun experience, I highly recommend contacting Chef J.D. Valdez with Houston Streatfood and setting up an in-home cooking class.