Meghan and I had been hearing a lot of good things about the new Market District grocery store that has recently opened nearby, and had a rare weekend afternoon free of other responsibilities and made our way over to give it a look. The place is massive; cars filled the parking lot and there were people everywhere. We wriggled through the aisles, marveling at the arcane products and ingredients for sale, skipping the meat and cheese counters (back ⅓ of the store) and finding ourselves in the produce area. It was there that we stumbled upon dried corn husks, and knew what we needed to make: TAMALES. Looking through some recipes, we realized we needed masa harina corn flour to make any of them, and found some at the Acme near the house. All ingredients acquired - it was go time.
Our trial run was lentil-based, and completely delicious, but I kept thinking that most people probably expect shredded beef or pork in their tamales. It reminded me of some incredible BBQ pulled jackfruit sandwiches Meghan made last fall, and I knew we needed to try our hand at “traditional” tamales with jackfruit. The results were better than I had expected, in no small part to Meghan’s fantastic seasoning and cooking of the jackfruit filling. I know, I’m a lucky dude.
Note: I didn't add enough liquid to the masa in the tamales we photographed, thus they were crumblier than expected, but the recipe reflects the correct ratios. Cooking and photographing all at once is tough, guys.
For the masa:
4 cups masa harina flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil, melted or veg oil
3 cups of veggie stock or water
1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks
For the pulled jackfruit:
1 20 oz. can green jackfruit (~1 lb./16 oz. fruit after draining)
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 t. cumin
¼ t. chili powder
1 T. minced garlic (optional)
1 bay leaf
1-2 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes, dissolved in ½ C. veggie stock or water
1-2 T. non-dairy butter
Pepper to taste
Prep time: 30-45 min
Cook time: 45 min
Yield: 10-15 tamales
Count out 15 or so corn husks, and submerge in warm water to soften. Preheat the oven to 400 and drain canned jackfruit; if using fresh jackfruit, harvest meat and set aside. Toast the cumin and chili powders in a large skillet on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then add olive oil and the chopped onion. Brown slightly, 2-5 minutes, then add the dissolved bouillon, bay leaf, salt and garlic (optional). Stir a few times and add the jackfruit to simmer on medium-low heat, stirring periodically, while you make the masa.
In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt, then stir in the oil. Begin adding the stock ½ C. at a time; the dough should be ready when it’s soft and spongy, but doesn't stick to your hands.
Head back to your skillet and shred the jackfruit with a wooden spoon or similar implement. Bring the heat up to medium-high and stir until the remaining liquid cooks down, about 5 minutes.
Remove the corn husks from the water and lay on a flat surface; add a scoop of masa and spread out into a roughly 3” square in the middle of the husk, about ½” thick. Lay a heaping spoonful of jackfruit in the middle and fold one side up, then the other, making a “dough cocoon” for the filling. Wrap the husk securely around the dough and, if possible, fold both ends down (the husks we used this time were a bit too stiff to fold the bottoms under).
Lay top-down on a slotted roasting pan with 1-2 inches of water in the bottom. Repeat until you run out of dough, filling or space in your pan. Cover the pan securely with a few sheets of aluminum foil and place on the center rack of your oven for 45 min. This will steam the tamales without getting them soggy. Remove from the oven and let them sit covered, for a few minutes before removing from the foil and serving.
These pair well with an amber or dark lager, if you’re into that sort of thing. Enjoy!