Family, Food

A Cooking Post: Tamales

My next-to-youngest daughter won the mother-in-law lottery, for many great reasons, one of which is the annual tamale-making party. Getting together with happy people who all care for each other, and gathering around a large table to assemble special food, is about as good as it gets. And this year, WE got to be there, too.

We’ve been invited before, but our schedules never matched up. But this year, we were in San Diego at the right time and when my daughter mentioned the tamales, I practically burned up the keyboard texting my “Yes!” back to her.

Growing up in Tucson, I occasionally had homemade tamales, sold on street corners by the Mexican women who made them. There’s nothing quite like that taste – an explosion of flavor you just don’t get from the store-bought stuff.

Tamales take a lot of effort and time, which is why you need to make it a party. The corn husks must be soaked beforehand so they are pliable. The filling needs to be made – chicken, pork, beef, or cheese-and-green-chili. Additional ingredients need to be prepared – things like sliced carrots, jalapenos, or potatoes. The masa must be made. LOTS of masa must be made.

And all that is before the guests arrive.

In addition to all this, the party is pot-luck. My son-in-law made awesome posole. There was a plate of cheese-bread-and-pickes, and because it was Epiphany, someone brought a Three Kings Cake. I brought homemade coconut pudding, which actually went very well with the cake.

We were set.

First, we gathered around the table at our “station.”


This was an assembly line.





Two of us spread masa on the corn husks:










fillingThe filling is added. This is chicken, carrot, potato, jalapeno, and green olive.





The husks are folded over, and the tamale added to the stack, ready for steaming.

My son-in-law’s parents, along with their neighbor, Norm, were our Quality Control team.

Trust me, we made way more tamales than this picture shows.




One-and-a-half hours later, here is the finished product, with a dab of chili sauce. Beautiful, right?tamales

Oh, did I mention there were grandchildren? They took naps. This was the only time the 3 yr. old was quiet enough to get his picture taken. When the 4-week old woke up later, we had some quality time making faces at each other. And that, folks, is what making good food is all about.






1 thought on “A Cooking Post: Tamales”

  1. Oh, my gosh. Those babies are precious! Great photos.
    I love that you got the menfolk involved. I’ve made tamales only once–when I was a little girl visiting my grandmother in Mexico. It was a lot of work! LOL. Since we were cooking for several families we had a huge assembly line of women and girls. But the end result was worth it. Nobody made tamales like my grandma. 🙂 I adored her.

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