I know for most, tamales are just prepared at Christmas time. But, for me, I crave tamales year round. I crave them more when the fall season arrives and the thought of tamales steaming on the stove top is all I can think about. Late last year, I experimented with using fresh corn in my sweet tamale dough. I really liked the results! For this recipe, I decided to make it savory. I had just purchased some great cheese from the cheese shop in Cuba, New York and could not think of a better way to use it.
Yields up to 10 servings, 4 tamales per person
Masa for the Tamales:
2 cups fresh corn, right off the cob
3½ cups masa harina
2 tablespoons chile ancho powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups warm chicken broth
¾ cup vegetable shortening or pork manteca (lard), melted
6 large pickled jalapeño peppers
8 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese
8 ounces Manchego cheese
You Will Also Need:
40 to 45 corn husk for tamales (better to have too many than not enough)
Foil paper or deli paper sheets
1. Place a clean kitchen towel on the counter. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from ear of corn. Transfer the corn to the food processor and process until coarsely chopped. If you like it a little smoother, you can process a little longer, set aside.
2. Combine masa harina, chile ancho powder, garlic powder, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Gradually add warm chicken broth and using your hand, work into a soft dough.
3. In another glass bowl, melt the shortening or manteca in the microwave for a minute or so. Add the shortening and the reserved corn to the masa and work with hands until mixed well. If masa seems too thick add a little more chicken broth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. While the masa chills, add the corn husk to a large pot or storage container. Cover completely with really hot water. Use a heavy bowl to weigh down the husk to make sure they stay immersed in the water. Let them soak for a good hour, rotating them halfway through soaking time.
5. Slice the cheese (both kinds) into 2 inch x 1/4 inch strips, set aside. Remove the stems and seeds from the jalapeños and slice each pepper into 8 equal strips, set aside.
6. When ready, take a few of the husks at a time, shake off excess water, if they are more than 4 inches wide, just tear off the side a little. Place the corn husk, smooth side up, in the palm of your hand with the wide side closest to you. With a spoon, spread about 3 to 4 tablespoons of masa all over the bottom half of husk. Add a strip of each kind of cheese and 1 strip of jalapeño lengthwise down the center of the tamale. Fold one side in first, then the other side (it should overlap a little on the first fold). Fold down the empty top section down and lay tamale seam side down until ready to cook. Repeat until all done.
7. Prepare large pot to steam tamales, take a metal steamer that expands out, place it in pot. Fill bottom of pot with about 5 cups of water. Arrange all of your tamales standing up (open side up) around the metal steamer. Insert a smaller, heat-proof bowl in the center of pot to keep the tamales upright. Cover with foil paper, add lid, turn heat to high to get a quick boil going. Reduce heat and steam tamales for 1 hour. Set the timer for 30 minutes at which time you will add another 2 cups of hot water to the pot. Remove from heat and let them sit, covered, until ready to serve. As they cool, they will become more firm. Yields up to 10 servings, 4 tamales per person. Serve with your favorite salsas and toppings for garnish.
Notes & Tips:
To check if tamales are done, after steaming for an hour pull one tamale out and let it cool. If the corn husk pulls away easily from the masa, your tamales are done.
Whenever I prepare tamales filled with cheese, I like to wrap them in deli paper or foil paper individually as I fill them. This will prevent the cheese from running into the pot. It’s optional, but it works well for me.
This makes a big batch, but the tamales freeze well. Just make sure they cool completely before wrapping in foil paper and storing in freezer bag. I bundle only 6 tamales per bunch. It Makes for easy defrosting.
Below: Pickled red onions and tomato salsa garnish the tamales.