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Mushroom and Cheese Tamales

  • SERVINGS: Makes about 14 tamales
  • VEGETARIAN
  1. 2 large ears of corn, husks carefully removed and kept whole, silk discarded
  2. 2 cups (about 11 ounces) precooked cornmeal (See Note)
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  6. 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  7. 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  8. Fourteen 1/2-inch cubes Monterey Jack cheese
  9. Tomatillo Sauce and Fresh Tomato Sauce, for serving
  1. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs; you should have about 1 cup. Cook the kernels in 4 cups of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl and let the corn and liquid cool completely.
  2. In a large skillet, toast the cornmeal over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Sauté the shiitake mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal with the salt. Blend in the butter with your hands. Stir in the corn kernels, mushrooms and hot sauce. Using a wooden spoon, beat in about 2 cups of the reserved corn liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well to incorporate as much air as possible; the dough should be very moist and light.
  5. Separate the corn husks. Overlap 2 to 3 of the husks to make a 6-inch-wide wrapper for each tamale. mound 1/3 cup of the dough in the center of the husks and pat down slightly, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all around. Push one cube of Monterey Jack cheese into each tamale. Wrap the husks around the filling to completely enclose it; allow room for the tamale dough to expand during cooking. Pinch the ends and tie tightly with string, leaving 1 inch of husk sticking out at each end.
  6. Light a grill or preheat the oven to 500°. Grill the tamales over moderate heat, turning often, for about 8 minutes, or until browned and crisp outside and heated through. Alternatively, roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. In either case the cooked tamales should feel firm and the husks should puff. Serve at once with the Tomatillo Sauce and Fresh Tomato Sauce.
Notes Precooked cornmeal, ground from cooked corn kernels, is the key to quick tamales. Don't confuse this with standard cornmeal, which is made from dried uncooked corn kernels. Goya's precooked cornmeal, also called masarepa, is the most widely available. P.A.N., from Venezuela, is another good brand. For information on stores near you, call 800-275-4692.
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