There are times in my life when I feel a sudden urge to play hostess. It’s funny because fifty-percent of the time, I’m incredibly anti-social. I hate crowded rooms, noise, messes, etc – I’d almost even label myself agoraphobic, except that I don’t freak out every time I open my front door. But more often than most, when faced with the prospect of going out on the town or filling my apartment with people and entertaining them for several hours, I run and hide. But there are times when I absolutely MUST make a spectacle of my household – to have a fun evening filled with warm, friendly hearts and happy tummies. When I came back from being in my hometown over winter break, this urge was surprisingly overwhelming. I blame it on the fact that perhaps I was more social than usual while I was away (reuniting with old friends, etc), and got used to the tune of things, and once returned found myself incredibly lonely.
So I started to brainstorm. It occurred to me that several people had asked me to pass on some knowledge I had gained while I was at home. This knowledge was quite tasty – I spent several hours one afternoon with a “grown up” friend – S and our mutual grown up friend, M, making tamales. S is a tamale expert and showed us all the things we needed to do to make perfect tamales from scratch. I had a blast, and had mentioned it to several people who all agreed I needed to pass along what I had learned. I decided this would be easy in a mass group setting – which I’ve been told is the best way to make tamales anyway. So I discussed it with roommates, created a Facebook Events Page (how awesome are those, btw? So convenient…assuming all your guests actually use FB of course), and a few weeks later my apartment was filled with a dozen or so of my peers (ironically none of the folks that had actually asked for the tutorial – they had previous engagements) ready for some cooking! It took us several hours and made a huge mess, but eventually we produced around 85 tamales, which I have to say felt like quite an achievement!
Things I learned working on the preparation and cooking for this little event:
– Next time, order less masa and make more filling.
– Dried California Chile Peppers really DO burn through your skin if handled without gloves. o.O
– Ask people to help with the dishes – because, dear Heavens, there will be A LOT afterward. I thought they’d never end.
– After cooking for almost two days straight – a stiff drink afterward is totally allowed.
– When attempting to make super spicy food, be sure you actually have enough cayenne pepper to follow through. I ran out mid-prep. So sad.
– As a Child Development Major, I have a huge mental roadblock when it comes to creating a model for others to follow. As in – putting out a model of what something should look like is a BIG no no. This, however, should not apply to tamale making. Next time I will most certainly create a model and place it on the table, so that the tamales stay consistently the same size. (S warned me that if they were not, they’d all cook at different rates. She was very correct in that regard – I was pulling tamales of different sizes and shapes out of the pot for close to half an hour before all were totally cooked)
– PAY ATTENTION TO GIANT POTS THAT ARE STEAMING FOR OVER AN HOUR. I scorched the bottom of one of my pans, as it ran out of water and I didn’t notice until I smelled it. It took me 45 minutes to scrub it clean after, and there was still some left at the bottom when I gave up – thank goodness it was my own pan and not the one my boss loaned me. (And yes, laugh, because I really did manage to burn water. The apartment smelled like popcorn for hours)
Despite these gliches, the food came out fantastic and we all had a lot of fun. It’s interesting killing several hours while tamales steam by playing cards and watching silly video games on tv. Just saying.
I got a lot of compliments on the meat filling we used so I figured I’d wrap up with a post of the recipe here. I mixed one of my favourite shredded chicken recipes with S’s red chile sauce, and the result was quite fantastic. While I will not walk you through the tamale making process (it’s a bit too complicated for my mediocre writing skills to convey) I will share the filling recipe to be used in tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and more! Following will be a pretty picture of some of our tamales. I hope you enjoy!
For the chicken:(Do this in a slow cooker for close to 16 hours, for best results)
4 cups chicken stock
1 large jar of salsa
Sprinkles and Dashes of Preferred Spices (I use onion powder, garlic seasoning – this is a mix that has pepper, garlic, salt, and herbs in it – and a packet of taco seasoning)
1 bag frozen chicken breasts
2 to 3 TB olive oil
Heat your chicken broth in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil. Whisk in your spices/flavor and olive oil until it tastes/looks right to you. Personally, I like mine overly flavourful since I know a lot of the taste will boil off after 16 hours.
Place an abundance of chicken breasts in the bottom of the Crockpot. (I usually fit about three) Pour half the jar of salsa over the chicken. Pack on top as many breasts as you can. (I think I ended up putting 4 more before it was too full) Pour the broth mix over the breasts, hopefully fitting it all in the pot. Dump the rest of the salsa on top. Make sure all of the chicken is soaking in the liquid. If you have a large pot you may have to add 1-2 cups additional water. Set your Crockpot to high, secure the lid tightly on top, and go to bed. When you wake up the next morning, move the setting to low. At this point the chicken usually has begun falling apart (which is what you want). As silly as it sounds, I take a potato masher to the chicken in the pot to help shred it apart. Allow the chicken to simmer on low until you are ready to use it. If you feel you’re getting low on liquid add another cup or so, and put in some more spices.
When the meat tastes the way you want it to – move it into a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Try to drain off as much liquid as you can. Once you’ve removed the chicken, add a small part of the broth (approx 1/4 c) to the bowl to keep the chicken moist. Now you have a bowl of shredded chicken! If you aren’t going to use it right away, put Saran Wrap over the bowl and set it on the counter or fridge until you’re ready. Oh also, make sure you don’t dump out the leftover broth. You’ll be using it in the next part.
The Red Sauce: (Adapted from recipe provided by S, any additions I made I’ve marked with a *)
2 to 3 bags of Dried Calif. Chiles (seeded, and soaked in a ceramic or glass bowl, in water, overnight) **When you handle the peppers WEAR GLOVES.
*Leftover Broth (If you want to make the red sauce but not the chicken, use 3 cups beef or vegetable broth depending on your dietary restrictions)
*1 packet Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning Mix
*Crushed Red Pepper
1 diced onion
Chopped Cilantro (I omitted this solely because I forgot to buy it)
After the peppers have soaked, place them in a blender or food processor and puree them.
Place them in a ceramic bowl. Whisk in broth (2-3 cups, depending on what consistency you want – S did not include this step but I felt the sauce seemed a lot thicker than what she had made with us, so I added it and it came out nicely). Whisk in the spices. I kept testing the sauce with tortilla chips until I decided I had reached the taste I was going for.
Now, saute your onions in some olive oil. When they are soft and transparent add the chicken and sauce to the pan. If you’re making tamales, make sure the filling is REALLY saucy, the masa will soak up most of the moisture. At this point, I added more taco seasoning, and then let it simmer with a lid on for about 15 mins. The end result was delicious!
I give the masa we purchased an A+ as well. S had told us the masa was everything in the recipe – El Rosal on 16th & East Cliff did not disappoint!
When the tamales were done, we gobbled up several with some rice, cheese, Crema, etc, and margaritas! Overall, it was a wonderful time. The next day I was up to my elbows in dishes, but it was totally worth it. 🙂
For anyone who attended the party and is reading this looking for the vegetarian filling, it’s relatively simple. White Frozen Corn, Black Beans (canned), and La Victoria Green Sauce (also canned) + chopped onion and added spices.
Gracias por leer esto! Hasta luego!