Mediterranean Polenta Tamales with Ratatouille Filling and Pepper-Corn Cream Sauce

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8 large dry corn husks, soaked in warm water for 2 hours
red bell pepper strips, if desired for garnish
Ratatouille Filling
1/2 cup diced eggplant
1/2 cup diced yellow squash
1/2 cup diced zucchini
1/2 cup quartered red or yellow pear tomatoes
1/4 cup diced wild mushrooms, such as porcini (if dried, soak 30 minutes)
1/2 cup diced red onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon minced shallots or scallions
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano, (1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch red chile flakes
1 tablespoon dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper-Corn Cream Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chile, (or to taste)
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups rich vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 drops fresh lemon or lime juice
1 cup young fresh raw kernels
Polenta Dough
2 cups water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup dry polenta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the vegetables to a roasting or sauté; pan and roast in a preheated 375 degree oven or sauté; until crisp-tender. Roughly chop and reserve.

In a medium saucepan. heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and the Serrano and sauté; until soft but not brown. Add the wine and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Add the cream and continue to boil until reduced to a light sauce consistency. Stir in the bell peppers, season with salt, pepper and drops of lemon juice. Stir in the corn kernels. Keep warm.

In a medium saucepan bring two cups of water to a boil. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and polenta, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and continue stirring until very thick, about 5 minutes. Fold in the Parmesan, minced peppers and butter. Stir and cook until the butter melts. Season with salt and pepper. Let the dough cool a little.

To assemble tamales: Remove the husks from the water, drain. Spread out the corn husks on a dry work surface. Pinch off an egg-sized piece of the polenta dough mixture. Pat it onto the corn husk, flattening the dough to approximately 4 inches per square and 1/4-inch thick, leaving a border of husk at least 1/2-inch wide around the perimeter of the dough. Spread a tablespoon of the Ratatouille filling lengthwise in the center of the dough. Fold the husk together until the edges overlap and the polenta and its filling are completely enclosed by the husk.

Gently flatten the top and bottom of the husk and fold the ends up to enclose. Place the tamales folded side down in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool 10 minutes. To serve, open the husks to reveal the tamales. Drizzle with some of the Pepper-Corn Cream Sauce and garnish with strips of red bell pepper if desired.

Yield: 8 tamales

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