Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos

Cooking vegetarian has always been easy for me. I eat some fish and fowl, but don’t really miss those flavors when meals are meatless. Dabbling in entirely plant-based cooking, however, sometimes feels like new and different territory. Arriving at creamy textures without cream or milk or butter, using substitutes for eggs, and giving dishes good savory, umami flavor without cheese has been a fun learning process. One of my favorite, recent, vegan experiments was revisiting the carrot dog fad as pigs in a blanket. So, I was delighted to practice more plant-based cooking with the new book The Wicked Healthy Cookbook: Free. From. Animals. Chad and Derek Sarno are self-proclaimed plant pushers. I like that, and I might be a bit of a plant pusher myself. They encourage readers to eat 80% healthy and 20% wicked, and they offer lots of big-flavor ways to achieve that with the recipes. The beginning of the book lays out good lists for kitchen equipment and pantry ingredients as well as tips for cooking success. There are also charts for healthy alternatives to sugar, salt, and extracted fats. The recipes take you from appetizers to bowls to comfort food, desserts, drinks, and more. The King Satay with Spicy Peanut-Ginger Sauce involves searing the king oyster mushroom stems before skewering them for the satay. The Cashew au Poivre Torte with Basil Parsley Pesto is a nut-based cultured cheese that’s topped with crushed pink peppercorns and a white balsamic reduction. There’s an introduction to sourdough starter, which I loved seeing, that’s followed by a recipe for sourdough pizza dough with a few topping suggestions. I was also intrigued by the pasta dough made with silken tofu rather than eggs. There’s a lot to enjoy here whether you’re in the mood for Kale and Avocado Salad with Wild Rice, Grapes, and Toasted Seeds or a Mac and Cheese (made with a plant-based sauce) Bar with several toppings. I was previously familiar with how meringue can be made with aquafaba or the liquid from a can of chickpeas. I haven’t tried it yet, but I want to. And, I had heard good things about using jackfruit to achieve a texture similar to shredded meat. After reading the pages about homemade tortillas and then seeing the Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos recipes, I knew where I wanted to start cooking from this book. 

Green, unripe jackfruit has a mild flavor. Here in Austin, it is available fresh and pre-cut into chunks. A whole jackfruit is large, and buying chunks is more convenient. But, the chunks I found would need to be peeled and seeded. It’s also available peeled and chopped in pouches in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. However, the pouches I found contained flavored jackfruit, and I wanted to flavor it myself. I opted for canned, peeled, and chopped jackfruit. It comes in a brine and needs to be rinsed and drained. Then, seeds were removed, and it was chopped a little smaller. The spice rub from the book included minced garlic, paprika, granulated onion powder, chipotle powder, ground coriander, and salt. The spice rub was added to the drained jackfruit and mixed by hand while breaking up the pieces a bit more. It was left to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. Next, minced onion was sauteed in a Dutch oven, and the marinated jackfruit was added. Vegetable stock was added next with orange juice, lime juice, oregano, bay leaves, and chipotles in adobo. It was brought to a simmer and then left to cook over low heat for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I made some fresh tortillas. I loved the idea of the cilantro tortillas in the book made with pureed cilantro leaves and jalapeno, and I added some arugula leaves as well. The puree went into the masa mixture, and tortillas were pressed and cooked on a griddle. The taco toppings included shredded cabbage, tomato, jalapeno, and fresh salsa. 

The jackfruit took on great flavor from the spice rub and cooking liquid mixture and was a good texture for a taco filling. I’m so glad to have gotten to know this ingredient. I don’t know yet what direction my plant-based cooking experiments will lead next, but the Cauliflower Mornay Sauce for pasta is a contender. This book will give me lots of ideas and inspiration.

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  1. Not sure that I even had jackfruit before..these tacos with cilantro tortillas look fantastic.

  2. I love meat, but could easily be a vegetarian -- so many neat things one can do. Vegan would be hard, though (no butter? no eggs? no cheese?!!). I sometimes see jackfruit at my grocery store (and can always get it at an ethnic market), but haven't cooked with one. They're so big! Didn't know they came refrigerated or canned -- gotta look for that. Fun post -- thanks.

  3. This recipe looks delicious can’t wait to try it. My best summer dish is having a good bowl of chilled potato salad with a juicy grilled burger!

  4. i've always been curious about how jackfruit compares to real meat! i'm like you and can do just fine with no meat on my plate. i need to seek this stuff out!

  5. Lisa, I like the idea of pasta made with silken tofu- sounds interesting. Plant -based cooking certainly helps towards food sustainability. I have never tried Jack Fruit before, but I have had 'Slippery Jack' mushrooms!

  6. I love jackfruit and it really does take on the texture of meat! This looks fantastic :D


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