Nathan and Katryn’s Tamale Timeline:

– 9:00 am: N & K go to ‘Bestway Market’, an international supermarket that sells ingredients such as Masa Harina, corn husks and roughly 3,000 varieties of peppers.

– 9:38 am: N & K get stuck in the checkout line behind a man who refuses (loudly) to pay the 5 cent bag tax. Ah, how we love DC.

– 11:00 am: N & K begin cooking the pork in the slow cooker and decide that if they start on the tamales at 4:30 pm they will have plenty of time to cook the tamales in time for a nice 7:30pm Saturday night dinner.

– 4:30 pm: N & K begin making the Tamales.

– 4:35 pm: Nathan reads how many steps there are in the Tamale making process and promptly makes a margarita.

– 5:30 pm: N & K have made it to step 3 in the 10 step process. They realize that at least 2 of the upcoming steps require an hour of refrigeration or soaking. Nathan makes another margarita.

– 5:56 pm: N & K desperately wish they knew a Mexican grandmother who could make Tamales for them.

– 7:00 pm: N & K finally reach the point in the process  when they can begin to actually assemble the Tamales. Neither Nathan or Katryn can remember their lives before they started making Tamales. Katryn begins speaking Spanish even though she never studied Spanish in school.

– 7:30 pm: The Tamales are finally ready to begin their 1 hour in the steampot. Nathan’s knees hurt and he never wants to cook again.

– 8:30 pm: Tamales are still not done and Katryn realizes why people in Mexico and South America eat dinner so late.

– 9:00 pm: The Tamales are finally done! Nathan takes pictures that are good but in no way reflect the 12 hours that led up to the glorious completion of the Tamales.

– 9:30 pm: N & K finally eat their delicious Tamales and wonder how they would have felt if the Tamales had been a failure. Both Nathan and Katryn can only shudder at the thought.

Nathan and Katryn plan to eat leftover Tamales for at least 3 days.

Katryn’s Wine Pairing: Bodega Elena De Mendoza 2010 Red Blend
Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0

This Argentinian red blend is a mix of Malbec, Syrah and Bonarda. The prominent flavor of juicy cherries contrasts the smoky heat of the pork and salsa and the subtle spice of the wine compliments the flavors in the tamales. It was a successful pairing and affordable at $9.99.

Nathan’s Beer Pairing: Famosa Lager
Rating: 5.5 out of 10.0

Famosa, known as Gallo (or ‘rooster’ for those of you who didn’t take Spanish in high school) outside of the US, is a light lager typical of most South American and Hispanic countries.  With little body and even less flavor this beer is pretty much good for only two things: drinking outside on a hot day or eating spicy food.  If you do both at the same time you might not even notice that your beer doesn’t taste like anything.



2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into cubes
2 cups water, or just covering the pork
1 medium onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 dried New Mexico or California chiles, seeds and ribs removed
Hot water, for skillet
1 chipotle chile (canned in adobo sauce)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh pork lard or vegetable shortening
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 3/4 cups masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
2 1/4 cups hot water
3/4 cup fresh pork lard or vegetable shortening (about 7 ounces), chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
50 dried cornhusks
Mexican crema or sour cream, for serving


For the pork: Put pork, water, onion, garlic, cilantro, and salt in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Let cool. Strain, reserving broth and pork separately and discarding onion, garlic, and cilantro.

For the sauce: Preheat broiler. Place tomatoes, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, flipping occasionally, until soft and charred, about 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add dried chiles; press gently with a spatula and toss occasionally until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and add enough hot water to cover chiles. Let soak for 10 minutes. Drain, and puree chiles in a blender or a food processor until smooth. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the reserved pork broth, the chipotle, onion, garlic, and cilantro, and puree until smooth.

Heat lard or shortening in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato-chile mixture, and cook until slightly thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add pork, 1/2 cup of the remaining pork broth, cinnamon and red wine vinegar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick and pork is tender, about 15 minutes.

For the batter: Combine masa harina and hot water, and stir until mixture forms a paste. Let cool.

Heat 1 cup of the remaining pork broth until warm. Beat lard, baking powder, and salt with a mixer on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add 1 cup masa harina mixture and 1/3 cup warm pork broth, and beat until combined. Beat in remaining masa harina and 2/3 cup of the remaining pork broth. Raise speed to medium, and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Batter should be soft but still hold its shape in a spoon.) Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

Meanwhile, place cornhusks in a large bowl, and cover with water by about 2 inches. Place an inverted plate on top to keep the husks submerged. Let soak, turning and separating them occasionally, for at least 1 hour or until you are ready to assemble the tamales.

To assemble: Remove 3 husks from water, and dry with paper towels. Tear husks to make a total of 90 thin strips.

Remove another husk from water, place on a work surface, and dry. Scoop ¼ cup tamale batter over center of husk. Spread into a 4-inch square, leaving a 2-inch border on straight end and a 1/2-inch border on sides. Spoon 1 tablespoon pork filling along center of batter. Fold 2 long sides of the husk in to meet in center. Tuck 1 inch of the pointed end up, and tie loosely with a strip of husk. Do not tuck opposite end, but tie it shut with another strip. Repeat, keeping finished tamales covered with damp paper towels as you work. (Tamales can be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance. Cover with damp paper towels, and refrigerate.)

Add enough water to a large pot to come about 3 inches up sides. Bring to a simmer. Set a large metal colander in pot (it should rest above water). Place tamales vertically in colander, leaning them against one another. Cover pot, and cook until batter pulls away from sides (you will need to remove a tamale carefully and open it to check), about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water to pot as needed. Serve tamales with salsa and crema. Leftover tamales can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in a container and frozen for up to a month; you do not need to let them thaw before steaming.

Salsa Verde:


10 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos rinsed and dried
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 jalapeno pepper
1 chipotle chile  (canned in adobo sauce), rinsed and seeded
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup green onion, chopped
¼  cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeno on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning occasionally, until charred, about 10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender. Scrape and discard charred skin from jalapeno, remove seeds, and add jalapeno to blender with tomatillos, garlic, chipotle, lemon juice and green onion.

Process until combined. Add salt, sugar, and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.



1 avocado
Juice from ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper, to taste


Peel and mash avocado. Add crushed garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.


2 Responses to Tamales

  1. You guys are too funny. David and I love to read your posts. Thank you for your beautiful/funny writing and wonderful pictures. David loves cooking. He’s the chef and so I showed him your blog long ago and he reads up on it. I love to just read what you guys are up to and wonder if you spend most of your time in the kitchen. You guys work, right? lol!
    Well, if you are ever in the northern italy area we wanted you to know that you have a home and a room waiting just for you.
    With all of our love and prayers,
    Ale and David

  2. karen norman says:

    Very funny post!

Leave a reply