Friday, July 7, 2017

Smoked Jackfruit BBQ Sandwiches

Summer! I won't bore you with my well-worn love song to summer, but suffice it to say that the best part for me is that it's grilling season. I will grill just about anything, but I've never really done much to use my grill as a smoker. Time for that to change.

The jackfruit barbecue sandwich is a well-known vegan delicacy nowadays, so we're not doing anything too terribly innovative here as far as the basic concept. If you never had it, it's a yummy fruit that, when done right, is a dead ringer for pulled meat (usually pig). It doesn't have a ton of flavor on its own, so it's a bit of a culinary blank canvas.

Prepared jackfruit comes in just about every flavor you can imagine (I gave up trying to count the flavors they have at Vegan Haven), but there's something satisfying about doing it yourself. Having said that, we're technically still cheating a bit here because we're using a canned jackfruit that has already been chopped up into workable pieces. Be thankful for that, because this is what it looks like right off the tree:

I have no idea where to even start with that, which is why we're going with this instead:

Shout out to our cat Fosse, making a cameo in the background!

You can find jackfruit in the can at Vegan Haven or most Asian markets. Be sure to get the kind that's packed in water or brine and not syrup, which is the sweet variety.

If you've never smoked anything on the grill before, it's really very easy. The secret is indirect heat, meaning the jackfruit stays on the other side of the grill from the side that's got flame going. This is good for a set it/forget it style of cooking, as there's no chance it'll burn on the flame.

The flavors here work very well together, but you can experiment all you want. Add or change out toppings on the sandwich with what you've got on hand or make these into tacos. They're super versatile.

Mesquite, hickory or Applewood chips, for smoking
2 cans of young green jackfruit, water or brine packed (don't buy the ones packed in syrup)
Vegan cheese slices (I used Chao Creamy Original)
1 cup or so of good barbecue sauce
1 avocado
Burger buns

For the spice rub:
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp white pepper

For the fried jalapeños:
2 whole jalapeño peppers
1 cup soy or almond milk
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 prepared vegan egg substitute (Use The Vegan Egg, if you have it. If not, a flax egg would work)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder or Cajun spice blend
1/2 tsp black pepper
Veggie or canola oil

First, put a good 4-5 handfuls of wood chips into some water and let them soak for about 30 minutes while you set up your grill and do other prep.

Next, open and drain the cans of jackfruit, then rinse and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. If you've never seen jackfruit that hasn't been shredded up yet, here's what that looks like:

Combine all the spice rub ingredients and rub the jackfruit pieces in it. Don't worry about pulling them apart just yet.

Prepare the grill.  If you have a smoker, I'm jealous. Also, you can skip this step entirely and proceed with the smoking like you normally would. If you have a charcoal grill, prepare your coals. Once they're ready, scoop them over to one side of the grill and sprinkle the wood chips over them. if you have a gas grill, like me, wrap the chips up in a foil pouch and poke a few holes in it so the smoke can escape. I did two pouches. Remove one side's grate and light the elements that are below it. Put the foil pouches directly onto the flames, resting them between the flame guards.

Lay down some foil on the non-lit side of the grill rack, then lay the jackfruit pieces out in a single layer. Close the lid and let them smoke for about 40 minutes. Keep the flame on high, if you have a gas grill.

Fry the jalapeños. Combine the milk and vinegar in a medium bowl and let the mixture sit and thicken for a few minutes while you make the egg. Add the egg to the milk and whisk it all together really well. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, garlic powder, chili powder and pepper.

Slice the jalapeños crosswise into discs. If you're a complete coward with heat, like I am, take a small knife and cut out the center part, removing the seeds and whiter part connected to them. Dredge the slices in the dry mixture, then dip them into the wet mixture and then back into the dry. I like a good crust on mine, so I put it back into the wet and then back into the dry mixture again. Place them gently on a plate. Put about an inch of oil into a skillet and heat it to medium-high heat. Fry the jalapeños in the oil, flipping once the bottom side is golden brown, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

If you're done smoking (the chips should no longer be giving off smoke), turn off the heat and use tongs to slide the foil holding the jackfruit onto a plate. If cool enough to handle, pick up the smoked jackfruit and pull it apart with your fingers, pulling along the fibers so they split apart and resemble pulled meat. Discard the little bulby parts as they pop out. Put the pulled jackfruit into a bowl until all the pieces are done. Add the barbecue sauce and stir it around with a fork to further "pull" and break up the jackfruit. You could also take two forks and really go to town, but it's not necessary. Jackfruit will soak up the sauce pretty well, so don't be shy if you like your BBQ saucy.

Assemble the sandwiches. On the bottom bun, pile on the jackfruit, topped with the cheese and jalapeños. At this point, I put just that part of the sandwich in the oven to melt the cheese a bit. This is optional, though. Slice the avocado and load up the top bun with it, then top the bottom part of the sandwich. It may not hold together well once you start eating, so have a fork handy!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Creamy Root Veggie Soup

Spring has...not sprung. At least not yet. It's still kinda cold and miserable and I'm really just over it. Since winter is still crashing on our collective couch, a nice and easy root vegetable soup is in order. This one is super creamy, but involves no dairy analogs or other tricks. The potato does all that work. Other than water, oil and seasonings, here are your ingredients:

Doesn't get much simpler than that. The simplicity is also a bonus for customization. You can change this up however you like and probably not go wrong.

1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 medium red potato
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 celery root (around 2 pounds), peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups water, divided
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Another savory oil, for drizzling (I used truffle oil, but avocado oil would be nice too)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and leeks with a bit of salt and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the potato and enough water to cover everything, about 1/2-3/4 cup and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the celery root and turnip and enough of the remaining water to cover the veggies. Throw in a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then continue to simmer until the root veggies are tender.

Throw everything into a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) until everything is smooth, then return it to the pot.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.  Ladle into bowls and finish with a drizzle of oil or some vegan cheese or croutons.