Here Today, Gone Tamale


Gone are the days when I threw sexy parties like Boxers + Boots for single twenty-somethings. Now I host an annual Tamalada. Simply put, a Tamalada is a tamale making party. This tradition has come a long way from the days in my grandmother’s kitchen preparing dozens of these babies for our Christmas Eve dinner after Church. A few differences being: the men today participate, the women are fit + sassy, + the kids are lucky if I remember to serve them their Mexican Hot Chocolate. Darn Sangria!

The trick is to not tell your guests they are coming to a sweat-shop. Instead, I quote Alton Brown: “Food is a social thing. It likes company.”

First things first: What to drink + what nibbles to serve to fuel your tamalada? This year, we poured ice filled pint glasses with a spicy Sangria (recipe below). Since tamales provide your quota of rendered pig fat for the year, we served a healthful pot of chipotle black beans with wilted spinach + Mexican “gnocchi.” All was on track until Tiffany showed up with four orders of different quesos from Magnolia Cafe, an Austin institution whose slogan is “Sorry, we’re open.”

You need the following positions covered to have a successful tamale assembly line: a husk soaker, a masa maker, a masa spreader, a tamale filler and roller, and a tamale steamer.

Once your assembly line starts, you will quickly see people settle into their jobs, even if their job is to man the Sangria station. I always have a few long time friends that are champion masa spreaders that can teach the eager first-timers. They take the pliable leaves and spread a thin, even layer of masa two inches from the bottom of the hoja (the narrow part) to the top of the hoja (the wide part). This is then passed to the filler.

Filling and rolling the tamales is a good job for your more “focused” guests. They spread the filling down the middle of the masa layer + fold in both sides of the hoja around the filling. This part is important, because if it’s not done correctly, you end up with filling that has no masa around it. After folding the sides, you need to fold up the end (narrow part) that has no masa. From here it goes to the person assigned to steaming them, aka, the steamer.

The tamales steam for 45-60 minutes or until you can take one out, tug gently on the hoja, + the masa separate easily from the corn husk, leaving a delicious tamale inside.

The beauty is the finished product from this labor of love. The smell and taste of succulent chicken mole, classic red pork chili, or “everything but the kitchen sink” tamales are worth all the sweat. And you get a party favor: tamales to go!


I have been making sangria for so many years that I don’t follow any particular recipe. I add whatever looks good in the liquor cabinet (spiced rum, brandy, whiskey) and it always tastes good, which tells you sangria leaves a lot of room for creativity. Sometimes I add Italian soda from Central Market like pear or pomegranate, and top it off with simple syrup. (sometimes I even add Cayenne    pepper to kick it up a notch) My conglomeration of things is like a trash-can punch- for adults!


If you would like to follow a precise recipe, here is great low-cal Tropical Sangria recipe:


1 (750-ml) bottle red wine

1/4 cup orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

1 orange (unpeeled), thinly sliced

1 lime (unpeeled), thinly sliced

1 (8- ounce) can pineapple chunks packed in 100% juice, with juice

2 cups naturally flavored lime or lemon-lime seltzer or club soda

Sliced citrus fruit, for garnish

1. Combine the wine, orange liqueur, orange and lime slices, and the entire can of pineapple, including the juice, in a large pitcher. Stir, and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

2. To serve, strain out the soaked fruit if desired. Pour the chilled seltzer into the pitcher, and stir to combine with the wine.

3. Serve over ice, and garnish with fresh sliced fruit.

(Recipe courtesy of:



  • Hojas (on the baking aisle in the grocery store)
  • Dried Masa (same aisle)
  • Lard
  • Broth
  • Jaime’s Salsa (a local favorite for Austinites) or your favorite salsa



Before the day of the party:

1. Choose about 3 or 4 friends to make the fillings. Give them a meat or base ingredient and then let them run with it, if you trust them. This year, I assigned a chicken filling, a vegetarian filling etc.

2.  You’ll need a prep table that your assembly line can use as a home base. (Your dining room table works well)

Day of the Party:

  1. Soak the hojas (corn husks) in an ince chest or large pot filled with very hot water for a couple of hours. When your guests arrive, have them take out the hojas from the water and lay on towels to dry.
  2. Prepare your masa (or cheat…and buy fresh, ready to use masa from a Tortilleria, common in states such as Texas and Arizona)
  3. Set out large containers onto the home base table to hold the soaked husks. Set out your prepared masa and spoons for spreading. You will also need containers for the folded tamales that are ready to go to the steamer.
  4. Have to-go containers (even Ziploc bags will do) to send tamales home with your guests, or you’ll be stuck with more tamales than you can imagine.

❤ Nancy

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