Humitas are an early, pre-Hispanic food that is still popular today in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina - a traditional recipe passed down through many generations. They are similar to Mexican tamales. Fresh corn is ground and mixed with salt and lard (and seasoning and cheese in this case), and the mixture is wrapped in corn husks and steamed. They are delicious and fun to make (see step by step guide to making humitas). Serve them with salsa criolla.
- 8 ears of corn (a starchy white South American variety with big kernels if you can find it)
- 1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste
- 4 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- Cut the ends off of the ears of corn, and then carefully remove the layers of husk, trying to preserve big pieces of the husk.
- Scrape the corn kernels off the cob into a bowl.
- Cover the bottom of a large pot with some of the corn cobs. They will serve as the "steamer rack" for the humitas. Place about an inch of water in the pot.
- Place the corn kernels in a blender or food processor with the salt, and process until smooth. If the corn is too dry and won't blend well, you can add a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of milk. The corn mixture should not be too liquid - you should be able to form a mound with it, without it losing its form.
- Melt the lard or vegetable shortening in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chopped onion in the vegetable oil until soft and fragrant. Add the cumin and aji paste and sauté a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir the corn mixture in with sautéed onions and cook mixture for 2-3 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the cream cheese. (This mixture can be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours).
- Bring the pot of water and corn cobs to a gentle boil. Place the corn husks in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften them.
- Take one husk, or two small husks overlapped, and lay them flat, with the wider cut edges lined up together. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the corn mixture onto the wide end of the husk.
- Fold one side of the husk over the corn mixture. Fold the pointy end of the husks down and tuck in while you fold the other side over.
- Place husks, seam side down, in the pot of boiling water, on top of the cobs. Layer the humitas in a criss cross fashion over the corn cobs. The humitas should not touch the boiling water.
- Cover the humitas with some of the unused husks, then cover with the lid of the pot.
- Steam for 20 -30 minutes, adding a little water if necessary to prevent the pot from boiling dry.
- Remove from heat. Let cool slightly and serve.
Makes 10 -12 humitas