Argentinean Tamales for Eat the World

This month at Eat the World we are featuring Argentina. Just the name makes me want to sing along with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".  Madonna did a fantastic job as Eva Peron in Evita.  I loved that movie.  Though I meant to review a book connected with the country to go along with my post, it didn't happen, so the film trailer link will have to do.

 I found the perfect recipe for Argentina, with some history, posted a few years back by Rebecca at From Argentina with LoveHumitas en Chala.

So: "Today you get a tidbit of Argentinean history along with your tidbit of food:
In 1879, the forces of Tucuman-born future oligarch of Argentina General Roca wiped out most of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the Pampa.  Such was the nature of conquest--'new' lands being colonized  to extend land expansion meant death or enslavement for native peoples--what amounted to a genocide of Mapuche tribes.  Roca's campaigns left the country with a 97% European population, and most of the land went into the hands of himself and his friends--a power that led to his election as president. 

 Sadly, so many indigenous traditions during campaigns such as Roca's are lost, but then, a few survive--and one of the things that most often carries on are recipes--because they are created from what is readily available in the area.  Argentina in the 1870s was pretty inhospitible for European immigrants, and the popularity of such native foods like squash, pumpkin and corn were due to the dearth of good quality greens, which is really the only way that recipes like this have carried on.

Humitas en Chala, one of the few very traditional recipes that has survived all these years, passed down from the Andean Incas and Mapuche tribes.  In a way, it is their inheritance, since this recipe has gained such popularity over the years that it's practically a national dish (though there are variations throughout South America)."

Humitas en Chala con Queso de Cabra
Corn Pudding Tamales with Goat Cheese

These tamales can easily be prepared and frozen, in a freezer bag, for about 2 months, and then steamed, or steamed and then frozen and reheated by steaming or in the microwave. 

Ingredients (makes about 2 dozen tamales - which I halved for us)

8 ears fresh corn, in their husks
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup milk
4 roasted piquillo peppers, chopped (you can also use roasted red peppers)
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 oz. soft goat cheese (I used a Puna goat cheese with rosemary and black pepper)
Special equipment:  Cotton string, steamer basket

Chop the ends off of the ears of corn (you can use a scissors for the top end, and a heavy knife for the other) so that the leaves are easy to remove.  Carefully remove the leaves of the corn husk and reserve.  Remove and discard the silk.
Using a box grater (an important step--results will not be the same if you cut the kernels off and use a food processor) grate the ears of corn over the large holes on the grater into a bowl.  Slide a knife down the side of each cob to squeeze out any extra starchy juice.

Meanwhile, combine the butter and olive oil in a medium sized non-reactive pot.  Heat over medium high heat, and add the onion, sauteing until translucent but not brown.  Add in the grated corn and its juices, stirring and heating until thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in the milk, and heat through.  Continue to stir until milk is absorbed and humitas mixture is thick. The consistency you're going for here is a thickened, pudding-like one.  (My note: You can add some corn meal to help thicken if you like) Add salt, taste for seasoning, and stir in the piquillo peppers and the crushed red pepper.  Remove the humitas from heat, and let cool completely.
When the humitas has cooled (this may also help to thicken the pudding), start your assembly.  Put a large pot fitted with a metal colander or steamer basket on the top (see below) halfway full of water.  Heat the water to a boil.

To assemble each tamal, place one husk leaf on the counter and another on top of  it, making a cross.  Put a dollop (a large spoonful) of humitas filling in the center where the two husks intersect.  Top with a spoonful (teaspoon-sized) of goat cheese. (see above)  Then fold the husk on top over the filling, and fold the second husk around that one, making a neat little package.  Tie with a length of cotton string. (I used about a foot per tamal).

When you have completed about half a dozen, place the tamales in the basket, and cover with the lid.   My Chinese steamer baskets held 6 in each. Keep the water boiling and steam the tamales for 15-20 minutes, until soft and heated through.  Remove the tamales and repeat with the remaining batches.  It may be necessary to add more water and heat to a boil if you run low.

I had some extra filling, so just used it to stuff one of my large Pacific spinach leaves, and steamed it along with the rest.

Bob liked these a lot.  I have to say though, that I prefer the Mexican tamales I've made before.  These are sort of flat little corn pudding things, without a filling.  Just a bit of goat cheese on top.  A bit of salsa helps for sure. To be served up as appetizers (or breakfast nibbles) at our Let's Eat the World feast.  Click the link and you can join in with the next country challenge.  Have fun exploring a country a month with us.  And be sure to visit all the participants, listed with their links below, and see what tasty delights from Argentina are presented.  I'll also post with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.

Loreto and Nicoletta: Argentinian Beef Stew
Evelyne: Alfajores, Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies


Mae Travels said...

Your recipe choice is really wonderful. The stereotyped version of Argentine food is beef, beef, beef ... which I think is from cattle raised on the pampas that were de-populated in the events you describe. It's great that you offer an alternative, with history.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Wendy Klik said...

Sweet corn tamales is one of my favorites. I love this version with goat cheese. Thanks for sharing.

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Believe it or not I actually made my recipe AND humitas but chose my cookies to post lol. Great job they look wonderful.

Margaret@Kitchen Frau said...

How great that you are helping keep the recipe alive by posting it here. It's interesting to learn that bit of history about Argentina and to know you are eating a truly traditional food!

Judee Algazi said...

Such a lovely recipe and I love that it is vegetarian- I've never made tamales but they look like fun-

Marg said...

I don't think I have ever eaten tamales, let alone made them!!

Carole said...

Looks interesting. Cheers from Carole's chatter

Beth F said...

I love tamales, and this version with goat's cheese looks awesome. I too have never made tamales, but it sounds really doable.

Deb in Hawaii said...

You have me craving tamales. I love the goat cheese in these. Yum! ;-)

Debra Eliotseats said...

Someday, I am going to tackle tamales. I love the goat cheese in these!