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
6 tamales for a first course or side dish
red onion, finely diced
red wine vinegar
ears of corn, husks still completely intact
poblano pepper, roasted, skins and seeds removed
grated Cojita cheese
1 1/2 ounces
grated Monterey Jack cheese, plus more for topping on the shrimp
freshly squeezed lime juice
shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails still attached
Macerate the red onion in enough red wine vinegar to cover the onion for 20-30 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve warm on a large serving plate for a side dish or on individual appetizer plates as a first course. Enjoy!!