Recently I had a chance to take the “Tamales 1″ class at the Santa Fe School of cooking. Tamales were created for hungry Mexican workers’ lunch meals. They had to be portable, well packaged with tasty protein based fillings that didn’t require refrigeration. In our 3 hour class we created homemade chicken tamales, pork tamales, Mexican red chile sauce and we got to eat them all!
At the Santa Fe School of Cooking chef Allen Smith explained the 4 elements of the tamale- masa, filling, the wrapping and the sauce. Making the masa seemed difficult at first but as Chef Noe Cano demonstrated – it is really quite simple. You mix corn masa or blue corn masa, lard, and water (or broth). When the proportions are correct- it floats in water.
We made 3 fillings- calabacitas (squash- and vegetarian), chicken and pork. The chefs had prepped all the ingredients and they were on hand to answer our questions and help us avoid mistakes. The sauces were a bit more complex but Allen and Noe provided just the right advice and encouragement. I liked the Mexican red chile sauce the best.
The wrapping process is the most time consuming part of making tamales. We used corn husks and banana leaves to wrap our tamales. Each filling has its own particular wrapping and tying style (so you can tell which filling the tamale has without unwrapping it).
Soon the tamales were in the steamer and we learned some Santa Fe and New Mexico history while we awaited for our tamales to steam. Lunch was delicious! I can heartily recommend classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. They strike just the right balance between lecture and hands on learning- well done! Click here for more information on the school. Click here