Recipe by Chef Christian Irabién, Chef at Aparo, opening this fall in DC's historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Photography by Jennifer Chase.
(Yields 15 tamales.)
30 corn husks
11 cups sweet yellow corn kernels, about 15 ears of corn
4 ounces unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons Crema Mexicana de Rancho
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 ounces semolina flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
Queso fresco (crumbled), Cornuts cut into small dice (plain, toasted and ground)
Take the dry corn husks and submerge in warm water, to rehydrate, for at least 2 hours before making your tamales. They need to be pliable.
With a knife, remove kernels from cobs, reserving 2 cups of whole kernels. With the back of the knife scrape the cobs to extract as much of the starchy corn milk as possible. Discard cobs (or save them to make a nice corn stock later with just some water and bay leaves)
In a blender, add all ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer the blended paste to a mixing bowl, fold in the remaining kernels with the corn mix.
Place equal portions of 1/2 cup of corn mix inside the corn husks and form your tamales by folding them.
Next, steam the tamales with a tamale steamer, which you can buy pretty much at any Latin market in the DMV or do as I like to do and use a Chinese dumpling steamer when making a small batch at home, on top of a sauce pot with boiling water.
Steam tamales for 1 hour (check often that your steamer has water, add some more if it is drying out, don’t burn the tamales or your fingers!) Remove the tamales from steam and allow to set for 20 minutes.
To serve, tear the corn husk, allowing only the bottom to serve as both a vessel and decor. Sprinkle with ground cornuts to add some texture. Drizzle with the Poblano Puree for color, earthiness and spice. Add one or two small cubes of queso fresco for garnish.
Crema Mexicana de Rancho (Ranch-Style Mexican Cream)
(Yield 2 cups)
1 and 1/2 cups sour cream
1 and 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons kosher salt
In a bowl, whisk sour cream with heavy cream and salt until evenly distributed. Your cream should be loose enough to drizzle, but thick enough to coat a spoon. Adjust the thickness by adding more sour cream or more heavy cream depending on which way you're trying to go. If you do, ensure you adjust your salt content too, the cream should be nice and salty.
Yield: 2 cups
Christian Irabien is a Mexican native who has led teams in renowned kitchens, receiving accolades for his Executive Chef role at Calavera in Oakland, Ca. and Jose Andrés’Oyamel in Washington, DC. Christian has been an integral part of the rising DC restaurant scene, collaborating with non-profits, restaurants, food banks and farms in the area as an active participant for better working conditions and wages for restaurant workers; while also strongly advocating for a better local food system. His restaurant, Amparo, will open later this fall at 3110 Mount Pleasant St NW in the historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood of D.C.