Early in the day I made the queso blanco, a simple white, firm cheese from Latin America that is a snap to make and requires no special ingredients, just milk and vinegar. after I set that to drain, I roasted the corn and chiles, prepped those, and mixed the masa, milk, oil (in lieu of shortening/lard), etc together. I added the corn, and got to wrapping. I used dried husks I had from the store as well as some fresh ones we had from the corn. The ones that had been on the grill added a nice, smoky flavor.
Wrapping a tamale is a bit challenging at first but is by no means an exact science. Don't be afraid to use your hands and experiment with techniques that will work for you. Make sure everything is covered up, use shreds of husks to tie the bundles closed, and remember: it would be great if it looks beautiful, but it will be more important for it to taste beautiful. Mine always look like squat little packages, but everything fits together and tastes good.
We steam ours in a colander set in a large pot, for an hour to an hour and a half. Just keep checking and when the masa is firm and no longer mushy, it's done.
Unfortunately, I made a teeny tiny measuring error in scaling down the recipe and I added too much sugar. My tamales were a bit sweet. edible, but sweet. The chiles provided a nice counterpoint but I wish I had had included more of them. The queso blanco got a little lost, but was lovely on its own.
This isn't turning me off from making tamales- I know where my errors were and I'll fix them next time. Had I attempted this a bit earlier in the month I would have probably made a second go of it.
from Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking
1 gallon whole milk
1/4 c vinegar (like apple cider)
heat milk to between 180 and 190 degrees in a large pot. mix to prevent scorching
slowly add the vinegar, a little at a time until curds and whey separate. you may need to increase temp to 200.
pour curds into a cheescloth lines colander and drain. Tie corners and hang for several hours to drain. remove cheese to a container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.