Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. Charring the chiles over a gas flame, rather than a broiler, roasts just the skin, leaving the chile underneath fresh-tasting. Buy Oaxaca cheese from Latino markets in sticks or as strings woven into a ball, to unfold. Taste some before buying--the fresher and more buttery, the better.
Char chiles on a gas burner or broil in the oven, turning often, until blackened all over, about 10 minutes. Put in a bowl, cover, and let steam 20 minutes.
Using a paper towel, peel blistered skin off chiles. Stem and seed chiles, then slice into 1/2-in. strips lengthwise. Halve any pieces longer than about 3 in. Season with salt.
Pull Oaxaca cheese apart into pieces about 1/2 in. wide and 3 in. long. If using Monterey jack, cut into 1/2- by 3-in. sticks.
Make ahead: Up to 2 days, char and peel chiles and prep cheese; keep chilled.
Servings Makes enough filling for about 3 dozen tamales (serving size: 1 tamale)
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.