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Corn Tamales Stuffed with Stringy Cheese and Poblano

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Big handfuls of juicy corn kernels mixed into the batter give tamales de elote a fresh corn texture and a delicate juiciness. Strips of Oaxacan cheese and poblano pepper in the center of these tamales add creaminess and a refreshing fruity flavor. If you prefer to leave out the peppers, the cheese alone is a delightful filling. These dumplings are wrapped using the Two-Husk Tamale Fold (see Notes).

For the Batter:

NotesTwo-Husk Tamale Fold

The Two-Husk Tamale Fold is a common tamale fold. By overlapping the sides of two corn husks--fresh or dried--you create a wider surface area to hold the amount of batter and filling needed for an average-sized tamale.

1. Arrange two corn husks, smooth side up, next to each other lengthwise with the widest ends positioned on opposite sides. Overlap the husks by about 1½ inches.

2. Center the dough or batter (and filling, if called for) on top of the overlapping husks.

3. Fold over one side.

4. Fold over the opposite side.

5. Fold the ends of the overlapping husks over as tightly as you can to create a neat package

6. Tie the package in a crisscross pattern to prevent the husks from unfolding.

Corn husks. Fresh husks pulled right off the cob are convenient and lightly scented wrappers for batters consisting entirely or partly of fresh corn kernels. Fresh husks from sweet corn are typically narrow and not too long, so you will need to overlap them in order to accommodate the batter or filling you’re working with. Dried husks, however, are larger, because they are generally made from the husks of sizable field corn, not sweet corn. They can be found, usually folded up, in many markets, especially Mexican, Caribbean, or South American groceries, specialty food markets, and well-stocked supermarkets.

Preparing dried corn husks: Count out the number of husks needed for your recipe. Unfold them just enough to count out the number that you need, trying to avoid tearing or cracking them apart. Fill a pot large enough to fit the husks at least halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat. Sink the husks in the hot water, cover, and soak for 1 to 2 hours, turning occasionally for a more even soak. Drain, unfold, rinse each husk under cool running water, and wipe dry. Keep covered under a damp towel until ready to use.

Freezing Dumplings: If you need to freeze extra dumplings, or want to make large batches and freeze them for later, there are a few things to consider. Almost all filled and folded dumplings can be frozen before cooking. They should be frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. If there is a second layer, separate the layers with another piece of parchment paper. Do not stack more than two layers of dumplings on one tray. Only after the dumplings have frozen solid should they be placed in bags or boxes, sealed tightly, and stored for up to 3 months. Fresh corn tamales, some wrapped rice dumplings, and steamed buns freeze well after cooking. Again, space them apart on a tray, let them freeze, then store in tightly sealed bags or boxes for up to 3 months.

Serves4 to 8 (makes 8 dumplings)

Cooking Methodsteaming

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentsteamer

Mealdinner

Moodadventurous, festive

Taste and Texturecheesy, hot & spicy, savory, sweet

Ingredients

  • 2 large ears of corn or 1½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 recipe Tamale Batter from Fresh Masa or Tamale Batter from Masa Harina made with chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound fresh Oaxacan cheese or soft mozzarella cheese, sliced into twenty-four 3-inch-long strips
  • 2 poblano chiles, cored, seeded, and sliced into twenty-four 3-inch-long strips
  • 20 to 25 prepared dried corn husks (see Notes)
  • Eight 26-inch lengths of kitchen string for tying the tamales
  • 8- to 10-quart steamer pot

Instructions

  1. Before assembling the tamales, review the Two-Husk Tamale Fold (see Notes). This fold makes it possible to create wrappers for generous portions of batter by overlapping the corn husks.

  2. Cut the kernels off the cobs over a large clean board or tray to make the kernels easier to collect. You will need 1½ cups of kernels.

  3. Loosen up the batter by whisking it for 2 to 3 minutes. The consistency should be something similar to a grainy and dense mousse. If the batter is too stiff to whisk easily, mix in some cold water, a little at a time, until it is softer and fluffier. Fold the kernels and salt into the batter.

  4. Line a tray with a kitchen towel and have ready the batter, strips of cheese and pepper, the husks, and the ties.

  5. Pick out the best 16 husks. Arrange 2 husks, smooth side up, next to each other lengthwise with the widest ends on opposite sides. Overlap the husks by about 1½ inches. Center 2 heaping tablespoons of the batter on top of the overlapping husks. Arrange 3 strips of cheese and 3 strips of pepper on top of the batter, then spoon another 2 heaping tablespoons of batter on top. Fold over one side. Fold over the opposite side. Fold the ends of the overlapping husks over as tightly as you can to create a neat package. Tie the package in a crisscross pattern to prevent the husks from unfolding and place it on the lined tray. Repeat until you have 8 tamales.

  6. Set aside the number of tamales that you would like to cook and keep the rest frozen for up to 6 months (see Notes).

  7. Steam the Tamales: Remove the basket from the steamer pot, add 2 inches of water to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, arrange the packages upright, leaning or loosely wedged against each other in the basket. Ball up and stick in any extra husks or parchment paper to keep the tamales propped up if needed. Blanket them with any remaining husks. Place the basket in the pot, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and steam for 2 hours. Check the water level every 30 minutes and replenish with boiling water as needed. (If steaming frozen tamales, place them directly in the basket and cook them in the steamer pot for 2½ hours. Do not allow the tamales to thaw before cooking.)

  8. Remove the pot from the heat. Carefully remove the basket and place it on a folded kitchen towel. Let the tamales de elote cool slightly, cut off the strings, and serve. It’s best not to open the tamales too soon and to peel back the husks just before eating so they stay moist and warm.


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