Humitas

Ahhh. Humitas.  Such a wonderful Ecuadorian comfort food.  I am using the term tamales loosely because it is something a lot of people know and have eaten before.  The concept is similar: a corn batter wrapped in a corn husk.  However, Ecuadorians will tell you flat out:  Humitas ARE NOT tamales!  While a Mexican tamal consists of masa, a corn-based flour, Ecuadorian humitas are made with fresh, ground corn.  Humitas can be sweet or savory.  Here I present you the savory version that has cheese.  The sweet version has sugar and vanilla extract incorporated in the filling.  Another savory version has chicken, and its filling is similar to the ayacas de pollo I posted a while back.

Humitas can be eaten for breakfast, dinner or as an afternoon snack.  My favorite way of eating humitas was for breakfast.  I had the cheese-filled humitas, accompanied by a cafecito caliente.  I have been drinking coffee since I was 8 – don’t judge.  Mind you that said coffee was VERY diluted and with a taste of sugar and cinnamon, which was DELICIOUS.

I’ve found a bit of difficulty making humitas here in the US, because I am pretty sure there is a major difference in the types of corn found here vs in Ecuador.  I don’t recall Ecuadorian corn being so starchy and wet like the corn sold here.  But don’t worry; I did some troubleshooting that will help with this issue.  I’ll also show you how to wrap your humitas.  Let’s get cooking.

Corn for humitas

Start with some fresh corn.  I cannot emphasize enough the use of fresh corn.  I have never made humitas using canned corn; it sounds icky.

Cutting the stalk

Cut off the nubby part of the corn – the piece of stalk left.

Peel the corn

Remove the husks from your cobs.  If your husks are wide and long enough, you may be able to use them to wrap up the filling.  I tried to do it with these husks and failed miserably because they were way too small.

Corn kernels removed

With a serrated knife remove the kernels from the cobs.

Corn kernels removed

Processing corn kernels

Put your kernels in a food processor and blend until you have a puree.

Blended corn

Like this.

Straining corn

Now here is an important step: because the corn has a high starch content, we need to get rid of this liquid to the best of our abilities.  Otherwise our humitas will be watery instead of moist and held together.  Strain your corn mixture in batches and place the corn pulp in a separate bowl.  I used my fist to press down the corn and squeeze out the liquid.  Good exercise.  Discard the corn water.

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Make a refrito using some chopped green onions and some garlic.

Adding the onions and garlic to corn

Add the sauteed vegetables to the corn pulp.  Also, add some melted butter to this mixture.

Adding grated cheese

Add some freshly grated queso fresco.  Mmmm.

Adding salt, pepper, cumin and baking soda

And add some salt and pepper to taste, and some baking soda.  Before adding your baking soda, don’t forget to taste for seasoning.  Again.  Tasting a bit of raw corn won’t kill you.  As a matter of fact, I am a huge fan of raw corn salads.

Adding eggs to corn

Add a couple of eggs…

Mixing everything

And mix it all together.  Note that in spite of all the squeezing of starchy water we did, there is a bit of liquid left in the corn.

Starchy liquid in the corn

You can see it better here, towards the top of the picture.

Adding some corn meal

We will fix this by adding about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of cornmeal, which will absorb the liquid, while still maintaining its creamy consistency.  If your mixture remains too watery after adding this amount, add a bit more of corn meal in tablespoon increments, because you don’t want your mixture to be too dry.

Mixing it all

Mix the cornmeal in your corn mixture.

How to wrap the Humitas – 2 ways:

I will show you two ways to wrap up the humitas.  I like the first way better because it is easier to manage and it looks prettier.  Ha!  The second way works great if you have large corn husks.

So were do you find corn husks?  Most grocery stores have a Mexican/Latin food aisle these days, which makes it easy to find them here.  Corn husks are packed dry, they come in a large bag and you get a lot of them, which is perfect in the event of messing up wrapping them the first time; I know it.  In order to get them to bend and fold, soak a few of your corn husks in warm water for about 15 minutes, and keep them in the water until you’re ready to use.  Once ready, remove from the water and pat dry with paper towels.

Method 1:

Corn husks for humitas

Grab two corn husks and place them with their wide sides overlapping and the narrower sides on opposite ends.

Assembling humitas

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the corn mixture in the center of the corn husks.

Assembling humitas

Fold the wide sides in.

Assembling humitas

Then, fold the skinny sides in, making sure one overlaps the other.

Tying up humitas

Tear out long pieces of corn husks – make sure you grab the longest corn husk you have – in strips and use them to tie the humita together to keep the filling in.  Can’t tie them up with the corn husk?  Don’t worry; use kitchen twine instead.

Method 2:

Wrapping humitas #2

Grab the widest, biggest corn husk you have.

Filling humitas

Place about 1/4 cup of filling towards the wider part of the husk.

Wrapping humita

Fold the sides in.

Wrapping humita

Fold the narrow tip upwards.

Wrapping humitas

Tie the tip towards the center of the humita with a long piece of husk.

Wrapping humitas

Your humita will have a small opening, but because your mixture is not watery, it will keep inside.  I realized after wrapping it this way, that another way to wrap it is by folding in the top, wide part down (so scoop your mixture more towards the bottom, narrower part of the husk), and then tucking in the sides.  In this way, the opening will be on the narrower side of the husk vs. the wider part.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  It will taste the same.

Ecuadorian humitas

I come bearing gifts…

Ecuadorian humitas

Place the humitas in a baking dish.

Baking humitas

Cover your baking dish with foil paper and place this baking dish inside a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with boiling water half-way up your baking dish.  Bake the humitas in this baine marie for about an hour in a 350F oven.

Humitas

Humitas

Serve warm with a cup of hot coffee – my favorite way.  You can also serve it with some ají criollo as a condiment.

Humitas

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 7-9 humitas

Serving Size: 1 humita

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of corn kernels (I used 6 corn cobs)
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded queso fresco
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of cornmeal
  • 14-18 corn husks, if using the method that employs 2 husks per humita + another husk to use as ties.

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, process the corn and drain any excess liquid.
  2. Sautee the garlic and onions in a bit of olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter and add this to the corn.
  4. Add the garlic and onion sautee and the cheese.
  5. Add the salt, pepper and the baking powder.
  6. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  7. Add the cornmeal to soak up any excess starch liquid the mixture may have. Add a bit more if the mixture remains too watery.
  8. Spoon about 1/4 cup of this mixture on a corn husk.
  9. Fold in the sides and tuck in the edges. Take one of the corn husks and tear long pieces which will serve as ties. Use them to tie the humitas.
  10. Place the humitas in an oven proof pan, and cover with aluminum foil. Place this pan inside a bigger one that contains hot water (baine marie).
  11. Cook in a 350F degree oven for about 1 hour.
http://www.tstastybits.com/2011/08/humitas-ecuadorian-tamales/