Make Ahead

Easy Cheesey Corn and Shrimp Tamales

August 16, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 6 tamales for a first course or side dish
Author Notes

I've made the components of this dish so many different ways over the last few years and this is my latest version for an appetizer. I've skipped the traditional tamale-making step of the masa and lard, and opted to use fresh corn husks as a simple package for steaming a mixture of corn, Cojita and Monterey Jack cheeses, lime juice, cilantro and macerated red onion layered with roasted poblano pepper strips and topped with shrimp. The packages are wrapped, tied, and steamed until the shrimp is cooked and the cheeses melt. I've done this exact recipe using the roasted poblano pepper as a shell for the corn mixture, topped with shrimp or with the roasted pepper diced up and mixed into the corn mixture with the shrimp for a entree. All have been successful and what I've loved about this dish is the flexibility it offers for presentation and for heat. If you want to eliminate the poblano, no problem. There's still enough yummy things happening here. The packages can be made in advance, refrigerated and steamed 20 minutes before dinner is served. I've loaded different pictures showing the packages. —TheWimpyVegetarian

What You'll Need
  • 1 ounce red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 ears of corn, husks still completely intact
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 ounce grated Cojita cheese
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese, plus more for topping on the shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails still attached
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Macerate the red onion in enough red wine vinegar to cover the onion for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Carefully husk both ears of corn, keeping each husk intact. Set aside. Remove the corn silk for one ear of corn and cut off the kernels. Make sure you get as much of the kernels and corn milk as possible. Wrap the other ear of corn for another use. Rinse and dry the husks.
  3. Combine the corn kernels, cheeses, butter, cilantro and lime juice in a food processor and chop for about 30 seconds until fairly well chopped. Place in a bowl and add the macerated red onion, discarding the red wine vinegar.
  4. Identify a couple of the longest husks and tear into strips. These are your ties to tie the packages. Take a large husk and lay it on a work space. You can also use 2 husks and slightly overlap them. Place 2 spoonfuls of the corn mixture in the middle of the husk(s). Place poblano pepper strip on top. Place a shimp on top of the pepper strips and top with a few gratings of Jack cheese. Now you're ready to wrap your package.
  5. Fold over the sides first, being careful not to wrap the package too tightly. Fold up the bottom and while holding that in place, fold down the tips. Slide a tie under the package, wrap it around the sides of the package and tie a knot. It may take a few to get the hang of it. If they're too tight, when you fold down the top, the corn mixture can squeeze out. It better to err on the side of having a smaller amount of corn mixture and a looser package than the opposite. Trust me on this.
  6. Place horizontally in a steam basket over boiling water; it's ok to stack them if you're making a lot. Steam for 15-20 minutes until the shrimp are done and the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve warm on a large serving plate for a side dish or on individual appetizer plates as a first course. Enjoy!!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Oui, Chef
    Oui, Chef
  • boulangere
  • SKK
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • The Enchanted Cook
    The Enchanted Cook

23 Reviews

Oui, C. August 3, 2011
I have never made tamales of any sort and now I know why, I've been waiting for this FAB recipe to start me off on the right foot, thanks Suzanne! - S
TheWimpyVegetarian August 3, 2011
Thanks Steve! I took a week-long class last summer in Albuquerque with one whole day spent making different kinds of tamales. They were my first ones and I found them to be much easier than expected. The biggest tip was to not overfill them!
boulangere August 3, 2011
Beautiful with the fresh corn husks.
TheWimpyVegetarian August 3, 2011
Thanks boulangere!! They're easier to work with too :-)
boulangere August 6, 2011
I don't doubt that - very clever of you.
SKK August 1, 2011
Love this! Thank you.
TheWimpyVegetarian August 1, 2011
Thanks SKK!! I hope you try them!
Kitchen B. July 31, 2011
It thrills me to no end to see that its not only Nigerian recipes which require folding corn husks or banana leaves. I love the flavours - the shrimps baked and sauced by the chilli corn mix - love it
TheWimpyVegetarian August 1, 2011
Thanks so much KB!! Once I get the first couple under my belt, they go pretty fast. But it's a fun way to steam something, and such a fun presentation.
The E. August 21, 2010
Beautiful presentation and sounds yummy, too!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 21, 2010
Thanks, Enchanted Cook!
lapadia August 17, 2010
Love these and the picture, we have often filled our peppers as you have's all delicious!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 17, 2010
Thanks lapadia! I made this recipe by stuffing the peppers for a dinner last summer at a friends home in Santa Fe and everyone really loved them. The best part was folks not wanting too much spice, just ate all the filling and left the pepper. Lots of flexibility with this recipe.
MyCommunalTable August 16, 2010
This looks great! Love me some tamales!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 17, 2010
Thanks MyCommunal Table!
dymnyno August 16, 2010
They look and sound beautiful!! Are these inspired by your New Mexico trip? I like that your ingredients are a concentration of interesting flavors...sometimes I get lost in the blandness of the masa.
TheWimpyVegetarian August 16, 2010
Thanks dymnyno!! And yes, these were definitely inspired by the trip. I agree with you on the masa. I haven't been happy with the blandness, as you say, and haven't like the amount of lard (or butter) that more traditional recipes call for. And it adds an additional layer of complexity when making these little guys that I chose to eliminate.
Lizthechef August 16, 2010
Looks beautiful. Love using fresh corn husks! Tamales can be daunting but your recipe makes me believe it is a "can do".
TheWimpyVegetarian August 16, 2010
These are really easy since I've simplified the tamale. I agree that the more traditional ones can be daunting!! You also don't need a special steamer for these to hold the tamales upright since these should be steamed horizontal in the steamer and can be stacked. If you have trouble initially with the ties, just tie 2 together and then wrap the package. Where they're tied together will be on the bottom of the presentation anyway. Hope you try them!
Sagegreen August 16, 2010
TheWimpyVegetarian August 16, 2010
Thanks sagegreen! I love your corn recipes this week!!
pauljoseph August 16, 2010
Fabulous. impressive recipe.
TheWimpyVegetarian August 16, 2010
Thanks so much pauljoseph! Hope you try them. They're really tastey.