You Don’t Know Jack(fruit)
Jackfruit carnitas — the biggest trick up your sleeve this July 4 weekend.
Photos by Leah Lizarondo
If the mad geniuses from Hot Knives throw a party, I want an invite. I’m not kidding. I really do. Their new cookbook, Lust for Leaf, is your go-to guide for how to party this summer. I get a lot of cookbooks to review, and this one went straight to the top of the “keep” pile. The recipes are, as Los Angeles magazine puts it, “seriously soulful and a little scandalous.” How can you resist dishes with names like “Nasty Date,” “Salsas that Hurt,” “Nachos that Cook Themselves,” “Backpack Banh Mi” and “Booze You Can Eat.”
The recipes may sound slacker-ish, but they are seriously legit. Authors Alex Brown and Evan George are not only chefs but also award-winning writers. This book is so mouthwatering and fun that I wish I could zip to Los Angeles and crash one of their ragers.
But since I can’t – at least for now – I assuaged myself by making one of the most intriguing recipes (among many) in the book: Jackfruit Carnitas. Now, there are a lot of recipes on the interwebs using this magic ingredient, but none of them – I repeat, none – are as good as this one. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of them.
There’s only one challenge with this recipe. While young jackfruit is an awesome thing, you need to cook it right in order for it translate well to a Western palate. (It’s not new to me, as it is used in Asian cooking. I especially love it cooked in coconut milk.)
Young jackfruit may taste less intense than its ripe counterpart, but it still has a very distinct flavor. This is especially true of the canned variety because the brine adds another dimension of flavor. The magic trick in the book is to smoke the jackfruit so that the brine is evaporated and another layer of goodness permeates the jackfruit.
This is key.
However, it takes a lot of effort.
So I followed the book’s alternative suggestion of drying the jackfruit in the oven, taking refuge in adding liquid smoke to make up for the fact that I didn’t have the patience to do the whole mesquite process. Magic!
Plus, I made the red chile sauce to the letter.
OMG. OMG. OMG.
That was all I could say as I bit into my taco. These were so good I almost died.
The boys from Hot Knives weren’t kidding when they wrote, “Follow these instructions and your friends will worship you too, like they just solved the world’s mysteries or saw the Virgin of Guadalupe in a piece of fruit.”
Quick! Run to your nearest Asian/ethnic/specialty foods store and nab all the young jackfruit cans before someone else does.
Yield: Serves 12-15
Red Chile Sauce
- 2 c dried red chile powder*
- 4 c vegetable stock
- ¼ c orange juice
- ⅓ c grapeseed oil
- 1 white onion, chopped
- Half a head of garlic, peeled and minced (I used a whole head, because why not?)
- 1 T cumin
- 1 t dried sage
- 1 t turmeric
- ½ t cinnamon
- ½ t coffee (do not omit, EVER)
- 1 ½ T all-purpose flour (I used a gluten-free blend)
- 4 chipotle peppers, in adobo, chopped
- 5 cans young jackfruit, in brine
- ¼ c grapeseed oil
- Half a head of garlic, minced
- 1 white onion, chopped
- A few drops of liquid smoke
Dry the jackfruit:
1. Drain the brine and place your jackfruit pieces on a lined baking sheet in your oven’s lowest setting until the brine has evaporated. About 3 hours. Remove when dry and let cool.
Make the red chile sauce:
1. Grind all the spices and the coffee, warm the stock on the stove
2. With about ⅓ of the oil, sauté the onions until soft, lower the heat, add the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Add another third of the oil and half of the red chile powder*, keep stirring and cook for 3 minutes.
4. Add the ground spices and chipotle. Stir.
5. Add the rest of the oil and the flour, stir and cook for a minute.
6. Add a cup of the stock at a time and stir with a whisk. When you have a cup left, assess whether your sauce is the right consistency and add in increments, as required. Add the OJ. Add salt to taste.
7. Reserve until use.
*The book does not say when to add the rest of the chile powder so I actually put all the chile powder. You may want to adjust to your spice comfort zone.
Prepare the jackfruit:
1. Break the jackfruit into shreds – they should be dry outside and slightly moist inside.
2. Place a large skillet over medium heat and divide the jackfruit in two batches (unless you have a really large skillet, then do it in one batch).
3. Sweat half the onions in half the oil for 3 minutes.
4. Add half the jackfruit and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add half the garlic and a few drops of liquid smoke and cook for about 3 minutes.
6. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the second batch.
1. Add the jackfruit to a thick-bottomed pan and cover it with the red chile sauce. You can reheat over a stove or grill, stirring often. Serve hot.
While you’re at it, pair it with this kick-ass Brazen Kitchen guacamole.