When Paul & I were on our first or second date, I told him about my dreams of opening a butcher shop. He told me about his life as a vegan. Clearly, we were destined to marry.
It's almost a decade later and we have both regressed to the mean in that, I don't really cook or eat meat at home (it is silly to cook meat for just one person; especially when our meals at home are complete and tasty without) and he eats butter and cheese and eggs (so he is now a vegetarian) and sometimes, when the atmospheric pressure is just so, and we are going to specific restaurants & food trucks, on rare occasions, when the planets arrange themselves in a certain formation, he sometimes sort of eats some fish sometimes (a reluctant pescatarian, perhaps?).
I have said it many times, but it is easier to be with a vegan or vegetarian or pescatarian that loves really good food than it ever was to date an Applebee's loving meat eater.
We have learned a lot from each other about how to play with food and care about our ingredients and experiment with new flavors and textures and styles. In other words, we have found a way to eat really really well.
Unripe jackfruit is just one of the secrets. It does not suffer from the major failure of most vegetarian substitutes for meat: texture. Other claims that you will not believe until you actually eat it:
- it is not bizarrely sweet
- it doesn't have a funk to it
- it actually does fool meat eaters
- it is ridiculously cheap (less than $2 for several servings)
- it makes good leftovers
- it is delicious
- it is easy to prepare. No really. This is what you do:
Buy a can of unripe jackfruit from an Indian grocery store or Amazon. It looks like this:
- Drain off the liquid and lay the jackfruit in a single layer on a towel to soak up most moisture.
- Fry the jackfruit in oil until lightly browned in the gills and edges (about 1-3 minutes depending on how hot the oil is).
- Let jackfruit dry and cool on paper towels (if you are preparing ahead of time, this is where you would stop your prep)
- Heat your sauce (bbq, masala, curry, etc).
- Add jackfruit to warm/hot sauce and simmer for about five minutes.
- This can be served with knife and fork or you can "pull" the jackfruit into shreds
Here are just two things we have done with jackfruit this week:
BBQ picnic bites
On Sunday, my husband and I competed in the smoke themed Food Experiment. We had to prepare one bite of smoky food for 200-300 people. We finished our jackfruit with a smoked BBQ sauce and pulled into shreds with two forks. We served with a red potato, chive aioli, garlic scape pickles and some minature chaat.
Bahn Mi - a pretty kick ass vegetarian version
And for every lunch since, we have filled a toasted bolillo (from Panaderia Guadalupana) or baguette with:
- a smear of mayo or aioli
- sliced cucumbers
- salted tomatoes
- thinly sliced shallots
- serrano peppers slices
- quick daikon and carrot pickle
- soy sauce with crushed, dried chipotle peppers (although, if you are an omnivore or pescatarian, I cannot recommend nuoc cham enough)
- BBQ pulled jackfruit, warmed in a saute pan (adding just a little water if it isn't saucy enough).
But don't stop with BBQ pulled jackfruit! Add it whole to Indian masalas, Thai curries, Italian marinaras, sweet corn puree with some red bell peppers and ricotta salata over some buttermilk biscuits... well, you get the picture. I've been dreaming of a shredded jackfruit pot pie - I am not sure how well it bakes but this experiment is in my future.
Go on. Stop looking at me. Go. Play.