Sweet Corn and Goat Cheese Tamales, with a Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Salsa

Tamales are basically corn cakes covered with a filling then wrapped in corn husks and steamed. I use a three-tier bamboo steamer over a metal pan that I bought at a Chinese grocer, and it works great. You can use a setup like this, or any steamer you have. This recipe makes about 15 tamales and you can freeze any leftovers for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen tamales in the refrigerator, then reheat them by steaming for about 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Ingredients

  • 20 or more dry corn husks (look for them in the Mexican-foods section of the supermarket)

Masa

  • cups corn kernels, from about 2 ears of corn
  • cups plus 2 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • cup organic trans fat-free spread or buttery spread
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

Filling

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Juice from ½ lime, about 4 teaspoons
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces goat cheese

Salsa

  • 1 large red tomato, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large yellow tomato, cut into ½-inch- thick slices
  • 2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Juice from ½ lime, about 4 teaspoons
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (from about ½ orange)
  • ½ large, ripe banana, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked in hot water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Place the dry corn husks in a loaf pan and cover with hot water. The husks need to soak until pliable, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, to prepare the masa, heat a heavy, 10-inch skillet over high heat. Spray with canola oil spray. Add the corn kernels and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes until the corn turns bright yellow and smells sweet and smokey. Remove from the heat.
  3. Measure the soy milk and the orange juice into a blender cup. Add the corn kernels and a little salt and pepper. Cover and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is well mixed and the kernels are broken up. In a large bowl, beat the buttery spread, using a wooden spoon, until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the masa harina, 1 teaspoon salt, and the baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add the masa harina mix to the buttery spread ½ cup at a time, alternating with ¼ cup of the liquid mixture. Use a wooden spoon to beat well after each addition until the ingredients are combined. Beat in the canola oil. Set aside.
  4. To prepare the filling, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, and cilantro. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasonings. Stir in the goat cheese, stirring until melted and blended, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  5. To assemble the tamales, lift the softened, pliable corn husks out of the water and drain them into a colander. Separate the corn husks if they are stuck together. Tear 2 or 3 of the corn husks into lengthwise strips about the width of thick string. You’ll need about 40 "strings” of torn corn husks to tie the tamales later in the recipe. Open a corn husk and hold it flat and open in one hand. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the masa along the center of the corn husk, about 5 by 1½ inches. Spread about 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling evenly over the masa. Pull one side of the corn husk lengthwise over the filling, then roll the corn husk into a cylindrical shape. Using two pieces of the corn husk “string” that you made, tie each end just at the end of the filling. Place the tamale into a steamer basket tray. Continue filling and tying the tamales, arranging them in a single layer on the steamer basket trays, trying to gauge the mix so as to use up both the masa and the filling by the last tamale. (The last few may have a little extra or a little less masa and filling.)
  6. To cook the tamales, fill the bottom pan of the steamer with warm water about three-fourths full. Stack the trays onto the bottom pan. Place over high heat. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes, carefully rotating the steamer trays after 20 minutes to steam evenly. Open one tamale to check for doneness. The masa should be fairly firm; if it isn’t firm, continue to steam for another 5 minutes and then check again for doneness.
  7. Meanwhile, to prepare the salsa, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with canola oil spray. Arrange the sliced tomatoes and the tomatillos in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes, turning once with tongs until softened. Turn the cooked tomatoes and tomatillos and their liquids into a blender cup. Add the chopped garlic, the lime and orange juices, the banana slices, and a little salt and pepper. Lift the softened chipotle pepper out of the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the stem. Coarsely chop the pepper. Add the chopped pepper to the blender cup. Cover the blender and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds until smooth. Taste for seasonings.
  8. To serve the tamales, heat the salsa over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until heated through. Pour the salsa into a gravy boat. Using tongs, remove the tamales from the steamer and arrange on a platter. To eat, untie and unroll a tamale, leaving the corn masa and the filling exposed on the corn husk. Spoon a little salsa over the filling or serve alongside for dipping.

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