Weekend Cooking

Jackfruit "Carnitas" Tamales From Chef Aarón Sánchez

September  6, 2019
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Makes 12 tamales
  • For the jackfruit carnitas:
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 (15-ounce) can green jackfruit, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the tamales and salsa roja de chapulines:
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cacique® Queso Fresco
  • 15 dried corn husks
  • 2 1/3 cups instant masa flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 red tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup chapulines
In This Recipe
  1. For the jackfruit carnitas:
  2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the jackfruit. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, salt, dried oregano, spices, and orange zest. Add the jackfruit and toss well to thoroughly coat. Cover and allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or small pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onion until it’s just beginning to brown around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes, then add the garlic and cook a minute more.
  5. Fold in the chipotle and jackfruit and let cook, undisturbed, until fragrant. Give it a stir; it should be starting to brown and slightly stick to the bottom of the pan. When it does, pour in the broth and add the bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium-high just until it comes to a simmer, then cover with the lid so there’s a slight gap for steam to escape. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth has thickened and the jackfruit is easily to shred with a fork, 30 minutes or so. Discard the bay leaf.
  6. Allow the jackfruit to cool completely before filling the tamales; it’s best if you can refrigerate it overnight. Feel free to coarsely chop it to make it finer.
  1. For the tamales and salsa roja de chapulines:
  2. To make the tamales: Rinse the cornhusks thoroughly and place them all in a large bowl. Cover with plenty of hot water and add a weight, such as a heavy dish, to keep them submerged. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the masa, salt, baking powder, and chili powder. Using a fork, stir in the broth until you have a crumbly dough, then add the oil and melted butter. Stir or knead by hand until the mix feels like cookie dough; it will be oily to the touch but should not look shiny or greasy. Divide it into 12 evenly sized mounds, approximately 2 ounces each.
  4. Thoroughly dry one corn husk and lay it on a work surface with the tapered end pointing away from you. Grab a mound of masa and use your fingertips to spread it in a 4- to 5-inch square in the lower left corner of the husk; you want a pretty thin layer of even thickness.
  5. Repeat with 11 of the remaining husks (there are a few extra in case any are badly torn).
  6. Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of jackfruit “carnitas” in the center of the masa so it forms a little line parallel with the husk. Scatter 1 to 2 teaspoons Cacique Queso Fresco over it.
  7. To fold the tamale, start with the corner that has masa. Fold the long side of the husk snugly to enclose the filling, then continue rolling until there’s no excess husk. The narrow, un-filled end will form a long, tapered “tail”; fold it down toward the seam. Tear some of the extra husks into long, thin ribbons and use these to tie the tamales.
  8. Set up a steamer basket or bamboo steamer above a large pot that has a lid. Fill the pot with water until it’s about an inch below the steamer, then bring to medium-high heat. When it’s actively simmering, decrease the heat to medium-low for a gentle simmer.
  9. Position the tamales inside the steamer, filling side up. You can lean the tamales against each other to prop them upright. Cover the pot with a lid and steam the tamales, undisturbed, for 35 to 45 minutes. (Check about halfway through to ensure there’s enough liquid in the pot; if necessary, carefully pour in more water, making sure it doesn’t splash inside the tamales themselves.)
  10. To check for doneness, allow one to cool for 2 to 3 minutes while the rest keep cooking in the lidded pot; the husk should peel away easily. If the masa still sticks to it, continue to steam the tamales in 5-minute increments.
  11. To make the salsa roja de chapulines: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the dried chiles and toast until fragrant and lightly browned on both sides. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the stems and slice them open to remove the seeds.
  12. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat, add the chiles, and set aside to rehydrate for at least 15 minutes.
  13. Set the dry skillet over high heat and wait until it’s very hot (a drop of water should evaporate as soon as it hits the pan) before adding the tomatoes. Leave undisturbed until one side is deeply charred, then rotate and continue until they’re charred all over. Char the flat side of the onion and the garlic cloves in the same pan.
  14. Remove the chiles from the broth and add them to a food processor or blender. Puree with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt until smooth. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water and blend; add more, 2 tablespoons at a time, until it’s the consistency you want.
  15. Heat the oil in a clean saucepan over medium heat, then pour in the salsa. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly. Use your fingers to finely crumble the chapulines into the salsa just before serving.
  16. Serve the salsa over the warm tamales.

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