For last week’s poll, I kind of opened it up and just asked what people wanted me to make.
“I have a ton of corn in my CSA share, and I absolutely love tamales. I would like to do something with the husk other than throw it out. Making tamales seems a bit daunting, but I was hoping you could make it seem easy and flavorful. Enjoy camping, I’m off to do the same!”
I did enjoy camping Alyssa except that I almost got my crappy Ford Taurus stuck on a road that was clearly marked for only 4X4 vehicles. Made it out alive though!
Anyway, back to corn husks. Honestly, tamales are kind of a chore. They aren’t that hard really, but they do take a fair amount of time. Like, if you’re going to make them, you should make a bunch and it’ll take you a day. I unfortunately didn’t have a day because I was camping and stuff, but you did get my mind on corn husks and maybe other things you could do with them!
It turns out there’s a great practical use for them: steaming fish!
I say practical because they don’t necessarily impart a lot of flavor. But they do get the job done!
1) Peel corn. Try to leave husks in as big of pieces as possible.
2) Portion out fish into 4-5 ounce pieces.
3) Lay out a few corn husks and pile on about a cup of cooked rice. Flatten the rice and drizzle with soy sauce.
4) Place a piece of fish on the rice and top with sliced lemon and ginger.
5) Transfer each bundle to a bamboo steamer as you finish it. Use a spatula to transfer the bundles.
6) When each layer is done (two bundles per layer) pile come extra husks on top to trap some of the steam and flavors in.
7) Steam for 10 minutes and rotate the levels half-way through.
8) Serve with corn obviously!
Unwrapping and Wrapping
The problem that Alyssa posed comes from having too much of this stuff: corn.
Or actually, more specifically, the husks:
The only thing I’ll note is that when you’re peeling your corn, try to be gentle. The bigger pieces of husk you can get, the better off you’ll be.
Theoretically you could steam almost anything in these guys I guess, but I chose a nice light white fish: Alaskan snapper to be exact.
Four to five ounces per serving is a perfect amount.
When it comes to actually prepping the steaming basket, I started out by trying to make it pretty.
Making corn husks pretty is very hard. After about 15 minutes of fiddling, I got really hungry, and just kind of gave up on the pretty aspect. But that’s okay. It’s not like I’m serving these at a Michelin star restaurant.
What I found is that the husks work great as a steaming plate. This is good because I wanted to make little bundles of rice, fish, and seasonings. I couldn’t have just done this in the steamer or the rice would’ve just went all over the place.
But lay down a few husks and then top with some rice and a drizzle of soy sauce and you’re in business.
Next, layer on your fish and top it with some sliced lemon and ginger.
This is where I got fancy and tried to some how wrap up the bundles. This may have been possible if I would’ve made them a lot smaller. I didn’t want to deal with 20 little bits of fish though, so I just kept them big and not pretty.
I used a spatula to transfer them to my bamboo steamer and then just laid some husks on top of each layer to keep the steam in a bit.
Like I said… not pretty, but pretty functional.
If you’ve never used a bamboo steamer before, you basically just get a large pot of water simmering and then set the bamboo steamer right on top. Ideally the water will be at a constant medium boil so the fish have an even steaming environment.
Because my husks were covering the entire floor of each layer in the steamer, I was a bit worried about the top layer getting the same heat as the bottom layer. So I steamed them for ten minutes total and rotated the layers half-way through.
Seemed to work just fine!
Once they come out of the steamer, you’ll have to use a spatula again to pick up the rice/fish bundles. You might lose some rice in the process but that’s not a big deal. Just try not to lose the fish!
I served these with the roasted corn which was really tasty.
I drizzled on a little melted butter over the fish and corn because my plate was looking WAY too healthy.
The thing I was most surprised by was how much lemon was transferred to the fish and rice. The husks did a great job of trapping all the flavors and moisture. What didn’t surprise me is that the husks didn’t give the rice or fish any flavor. But that’s okay. They got the job done.
Traditionally, banana leaves are used to do a dish like this but banana leaves are kind of hard to come by. This time of year, since there’s so much corn around, might as well use it!
Just do yourself a favor and don’t worry too much about the presentation. You could drive yourself crazy aligning and wrapping corn husks with very little benefit.
So Alyssa, sorry I didn’t give you any tamale insights. That’ll have to wait for another day. I have never posted on them though so I’m definitely due for a tamale post. Hopefully, this inspired you to put those corn husks to use though!