we are planning to make tamales at home on xmas eve...a few years ago on xmas eve day I saw people lining up at La Tapitia in South San Francisco to fill their containers w/ masa dough. Is that worth it? any other tips for shortcuts to tamale making? ....buy the carnitas?
It is definitely worth getting fresh Masa.
Carnitas is not usually used for tamale filling because it is too dry and rich. Braising pork butt in a red chili sauce is more traditional (at least for Northern Mexican style tamale).
I can't really speak to short cuts, We make the making of the Tamales part of the days celebration.