Although humitas are sometimes called tamales, the latter are traditionally made with soaked dried corn, while humitas are based on the fresh variety. See Handling Humitas for expert tips on making perfect humitas.
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. sweet paprika
8 ears fresh corn, in husks
2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup masa harina
Chilean Pepper Sauce
1. Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and paprika; cook until onions are soft, about 15 minutes.
2. Carefully remove husks from corn without tearing; set aside. Cut off kernels, scraping milk from cobs; reserve cobs. Place corn in a food processor or blender; purée until thick. Add corn purée to onions and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until mixture is dry, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper. Mix masa harina with 1⁄2 cup of boiling water in a bowl; immediately stir into corn mixture.
3. To assemble, spoon 2 tbsp. corn mixture into the center of 1 husk (a tender inner leaf works best). Fold bottom edge over filling, fold in the sides, then fold over the top edge to make a neat package. Tie with a strip of corn husk. Repeat process to use up all filling.
4. Place a few reserved cobs on the bottom of a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Line pan with a few remaining husks (the tougher outer leaves), add humitas, then lay additional husks on top. Cover pan and steam over medium heat, adding water if necessary, for 1–1 1⁄2 hours. To check for doneness, unwrap 1 humita: Husk should easily pull away from filling. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of sugar and pepper sauce.