Jack(ass)fruit Barbacoa Tacos
(Barbacoa-style Jackfruit Tacos)
WORDS: Johnny Lozano
In this blog, I’ve written largely about what one might deem “core” skate issues, i.e., spots, tricks, skaters, etc. To that end, I’ve eschewed more tangential topics like mere skater-inspired content, but this week I’m tackling the margins.
There was a time when skating and stupid shenanigans were synonymous; all through middle school, the statement “I skate” was followed by the question, “So, do you, like, film those Jackass videos?” Yes, the intersection on the Venn diagram was minimal, but enough to link the two much to the chagrin of straight-laced skaters everywhere (all ten of us).
Now, this is not to say that Jackass was all bad for skating. First, we should just acknowledge that Bam Margera has always ripped and skateboarding would be undeniably incomplete without him. Second, Bam was not the only star with a connection to skating—if you hadn’t heard, Steve-O is one of the forces behind the reignition of XYZ Clothing (he broke his ankle in the process of promoting it, thereafter letting David Loy successfully complete his port-a-potty stunt). I’ll even go one step further and admit that I liked the Jackass movies, irrespective of their de minimis connection to skateboarding—really, who’s not at least a little bit intrigued by roller disco in the back of a moving truck?
I was doing a bit of reading for this recipe and came across an interesting tidbit about the one (seriously, just one?) stunt that Johnny Knoxville regretted. And, surprisingly, it’s not the papercut scene. No, the one that Knoxville regretted was the one in which Steve-O put a fish hook through his cheek and used himself as shark bait. Now, you might be thinking that the hang-up was having his friend put a f***ing fish hook through his cheek, but according to Knoxville, that was a great opener; the hang-up was because he didn’t see a way to end the sketch and therefore felt it was lacking comedically.
Cool with the hook, though? Just checking.
Well, this week’s recipe has a connection to cheek meat as well. While I’ve never regretted cutting animal products out of my diet, there are, admittedly, a few meats I find myself craving from time to time, with perhaps the second most common one being barbacoa (pastrami takes top spot). If you’ve never tried barbacoa, it’s typically made from the tongue and cheek of a cow. Grotesque as it sounds, once it’s cooked for days in a hole in the ground and spiced to perfection, it’s delicious. Alas, this is not a blog about meat; it is a blog about plant-based recipes and therefore any barbacoa I espouse can’t involve the tongue and cheek of a cow.
Enter jackfruit. Those of you in veggie social circles may already know about this marvelous fruit. The jackfruit, native to western India, is a nutrient rich fruit that, when green, has a remarkably similar texture to pulled pork (so similar, in fact, that it’s referred to as vegetable meat). It has been rising in popularity the last few years, often seen in BBQ-flavored packets in Sprouts for the price of a Maserati. Thankfully, if you buy it at Trader Joe’s in unflavored cans, it’s much cheaper and you can flavor it yourself without much of a hassle. The consistency of green jackfruit makes it the perfect barbacoa substitute; it pulls apart like tender meat and soaks up the rich flavors of onions, carrots, chipotle peppers and green chiles without having to let it cook for days (which is consistent with traditional preparation). “Barbacoa” tacos that are high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and beta carotene? Believe it.
And better yet, there’s no cheek trauma necessary (sorry, Steve-O).
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 yellow onions (cut into strips)
- 4-5 large carrots (grated)
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. cayenne powder
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 can (7 oz) diced green chilis
- 1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes
- 3-4 tbsp. diced chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
- 3 cans green jackfruit (preferably from Trader Joe’s, drained)
- Taco fixings: tortillas, avocado, cilantro, hot sauce, etc.
- This one takes a little bit longer than other taco recipes I’ve done, so don’t start this one at 10:00 pm. Heat up the oil on a large skillet or pan (seriously, LARGE). Once warm, toss in the sliced onions and let them cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to let these cook longer than other recipes so they caramelize and become very translucent and pliable.
- Once they’re looking good, throw in the carrots and cook for another 5-7 minutes until they look similar to the onions. Next, toss in the cumin, chili powder, oregano and cayenne and let them cook for a bit, stirring them into the onions and carrots for a few minutes. Finally, toss in the garlic and stir.
- While all of that is cooking, toss the green chilis, tomatoes and chipotle chilis into a blender and blend it up until there are no chunks remaining. Toss that smoothie of chilis into the pan and stir it around with the veggies and spices. Let them marinate for a few minutes while you pull the jackfruit.
- Pulling the jackfruit: when you take it out of the can, you’ll notice that it almost looks like pineapple chunks. The inner core is edible, but doesn’t have the meat consistency you’re looking for, so start pulling the tender parts away from the core bits and discard the core. From there, you can discard the bulbs and then mash the tender parts in between your fingers to release the fibers. Once you’ve picked away the core and bulbs, throw all of the fiber bits into the pan and stir it up. Cook on medium heat for another 5-10 minutes, really letting the jackfruit soak up the flavors, then bring to a low heat, cover the pan and let it cook for another ten minutes while you get the taco fixings ready.
- Remove from heat, add it to tacos and enjoy!
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