Why hello there, and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes! I’m your eternally-audible author, Jon O’Guin. Today, we’re taking on a dish that I’ve spent months researching, spent long nights formulating the exact correct options, and…look, it was written on a placard next to a produce stand. Today, I make Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwiches, using the focus of last Thursday’s post: Jackfruit! Let’s get right to the meat of the matter, and completely avoid any meat. This is Jackass.
When Lightning Strikes
I think it’s been a while since I brought it up, so you may have forgotten, but I try to have a rule when I go grocery shopping: always buy at least one new thing. Well, I’ll admit, it’s a “wiggle rule”, as in “it comes with some wiggle room.” If I just straight up forget, I don’t take myself to task for it, for example. It’s just a way to push the boundaries of my culinary horizons, motivated by an offhand comment Alton Brown made on his show years ago.
It’s an easy enough rule to follow. You can try new kinds of Ramen, and at most you’ve lost, what, $1.50? New candy bars, different brands of cereal, all easy options, but not the healthiest things, as you can guess. If you want to keep trying new things and keep yourself at least vaguely diet-conscious, you’ll want to meander through the produce section. New fruits and vegetables, maybe some dried ones for snacks, or, if you want to give in to your perverse nature, chug a bottle of salad dressing to prove you can still make bad choices even in the healthy part of the store.
And it was while wandering the islands of green leaves and ripe fruits that we found our spiky little gentleman.
And we shall name him...Stewart.
The jackfruit, as we covered on Thursday, is a somewhat under-explored fruit of Asia. (He said, as if MOST fruits in Asia weren’t under-explored in America.) However, as I also noted last Thursday, it does have a slightly strange culinary niche in American cooking: Jackfruit can be used as a replacement for meat in various recipes. This may sound strange, but it’s pretty easy once you get involved. As I noted last week, Jackfruit tastes like juicy fruit and cheese. (And yes, we talked about how weird that combo sounds.) Well, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t taste POTENTLY like those things. Rather, the fruit’s flavor is pretty mellow. Thus, when dressed in stronger flavors, it disappears into them fairly readily. So it’s easy to replace the flavor with something else, but the other important factor is the texture. Jackfruit has a pretty fibrous texture. Pickled Jackfruit ‘flakes’ apart like fish does, and normal jackfruit has just enough structure to kind of “snap” under the tooth, like, say, a piece of gum, or a crispy bit of pork.
Now, people who know me know I have a…somewhat temperamental ability to observe things. I am equally likely to have completely missed six obvious hints about someone’s feelings, or just outright not have heard sentences uttered in my presence, as I am to have immediately picked up on something due to signals so arcane that I’ve been accused of making them up. And thus it is that I’d like to claim that I noticed the jackfruit from a distance, and immediately knew everything we could do with it. However, as the opening paragraph spoiled, that is not the case: the Safeway I was in really wanted people to buy its jackfruit. Maybe it was a mistaken shipment, maybe it was a new product they were trying out. Whatever the reason, the two jackfruit they had were situated next to a large yellow sign that explained what Jackfruit are, and how to use them.
And how to dismember them.
I didn’t even NOTICE the sign (because I try not to look at signs that I assume are advertising), but rather one of our group saw the sign, walked over, saw the jackfruit, and called me over to ask what it was. We had spent a good 30-40 seconds talking before we realized that half of what I was saying was written down inches from where we were standing. So at least I’m not alone. But, given my host’s veganism, and my constant need to cook things so I’ll have posts for you guys, we decided to give it a shot.
How Do You Pull Fruit?
Now, pulled pork, as you hopefully know, is called that because you shred the meat by, well, pulling it apart. You take a well-cooked pork butt or other fatty section, and using forks, or Wolverine-esque pulling claws, or, if you hate yourself, just your fingers, you just grab into spots, and pull. The meat comes apart in strips, and you keep repeating until you’ve processed it all.
You obviously can’t do that with jackfruit. Or, actually, since that’s not obvious at all, let me instead say “you shouldn’t do that with jackfruit”. (The reason it’s ‘obvious’ is that meat and fruit don’t react the same way to heat. Protein in the meat remains solid while fat and connective tissue melt and gelatinize, which is what creates the ability to pull apart the pork and find moist, soft, meat. Fruits are much more homogenous in texture, so they don’t self-lubricate (teehee), and their lack of protein means they won’t brown the same way either. If you roasted apples for a couple hours, they might turn out soft and delicious, but they sure as shit aren’t going to be shreddable.
Instead, we just cut up the jackfruit, into pork-shred-esque shapes. (That’s the real joy of the site for me: creating new linguistic abominations that are still entirely intelligible. “Pork-shred-esque”. Oh man.)
Joe said this picture looked a little like the Devil. I told him to stop being a medieval goodwife and chop more.
Once that’s done, it’s time for the recipe to get really confusing and complicated. By which I of course mean that I could teach a literal child this recipe. I mean, we’re talking REAL easy. This is a recipe with 6 ingredients and four steps. And most of those steps are “Do X, wait 5 minutes.” Which is great news, because, as I mentioned Thursday, processing jackfruit is definitely a process, so the fact that cooking it is easy is a welcome relief.
But yeah, you just slice up jackfruit and onions, and cook them in an oiled skillet for a bit. Then, you reduce the heat and cover them to steam them a little in their own juices. This allows the jackfruit to accept more onion flavor, which makes it more ‘meat-like’, and allows them both to soften a little. Once that’s done, hit them with some chili powder and some barbecue sauce, stir that shit up, and let the sauce heat through.
I don't really have a comment to add here. Look, sometimes the pictures are simply for visual appeal. They're not all jokes.
I’m not including our recipe for coleslaw, because to be honest I wasn’t involved with it at all. Joe was doing it because he needed to use the right ingredients to keep it vegan, and personally, I’m something of a coleslaw elitist. I’ve had very few really good coleslaws in my life, so I just assume that the slaw will serve its purpose, but not wow me, and brace myself for mediocrity. Joe’s slaw, despite being vegan, wasn’t appreciably different from most coleslaws I encounter in this way. Sure, it tasted a little different, but not in a negative way. It was another serviceable slaw.
So, the sliders (did I mentioned these were sliders yet? No? Well, they are. Or, I guess, you could make double the recipe for ‘normal’ sandwiches. Or even just make fewer sandwiches. Whatever works for you, man.) are filled and ready to eat.
Slider buns, slider buns
Holds whatever a slider bun does
So how do they taste? Honestly, fine. I wouldn’t say I was tricked, and believed the jackfruit was truly pork, but the sandwich tasted like a pulled-pork sandwich, and the texture was pretty spot-on. Not 100%, but not off-putting.
And normally, this is where the post would end. But I feel I should warn you of something that Joe and I discovered, especially since it makes this whole enterprise more humorous for you.
And The Thunder Rolls
Remember how I said that Jackfruit’s fibrous texture makes it more meat-like? Well, that extra fiber has another effect, one that, if we’d done some research, we’d have known about. Namely, jackfruit has a reputation of giving people stomach-aches and making them gassy. This is because the fruit is dense, sticky, and some of the enzymes in your guts react to the plant fibers and make gas. There’s advice from various sources on how to combat these issues: eat jackfruit first, and only when you’re actually hungry (otherwise its passage through you will be slowed down, giving more time for reactions, and therefore more gas), season it with mild/warm spices (these help fight inflammation, and increase blood flow, reducing the odds of stomach pains), don’t overeat it (again, you’ll get blocked up, and the problem will be doubly worse), eat it with honey (supposedly helps ease it through the system, which makes some sense. Quite possible there’s an enzyme or compound in honey that also reacts.), and lastly, don’t drink cold drinks while eating it.
We…didn’t know those rules. So we were drinking cold beer and munching on sliders as we started a 6 hour table-top wargame tournament. By about 4 hours in, I must tell you, Joe and I were…I wouldn’t say “hurting”. No, we weren’t PERSONALLY pained by our consumption, but rather our insides became pressurized, and the smog they output was noxious. IN short, we were farting like cowboys after chili, to the dismay of our companions.
It's a good thing we didn't try it before the previous night's Jenga tourney. There could have been dire consequences.
Once the source of our woes was known, we took all the steps we could to minimize the effects. We would step out of the room before tweaking the release valve, as it were. And luckily, as I noted, the issue didn’t really crop(dust) up until deeply into the game. By then, I was already limping toward a loss, and therefore was able to extricate myself to aid my friends. So, if you make these at home, I’d recommend considering a dash of cumin for the barbecue sauce, and make sure your drinks aren’t iced. Or just pop a Beano or something. Whatever floats your boat, and keeps your from tooting your own horn.
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THURSDAY: JON, IN DESPERATE NEED FOR SOME FRESH AIR, TAKES A WALK. AND WHERE BETTER TO WALK THAN THE WIDE-OPEN RANGES OF WYOMING? THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S TIME TO ONCE AGAIN MEANDER AMERICA’S MENUS
MONDAY: JON DISCUSSES HIS FAMILY’S FEATHERED FRIENDS, WHILE COCKING UP A SIMPLE CHICKEN DISH.
Makes 4 sliders
4 cups jackfruit, thinly sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp Chile powder (the original recipe called for Hatch, but I think you could sub whatever and it would be fine.)
6 oz barbecue sauce (I don’t know if they mean by weight here. If not, then it’s just ¾ cup, which is what we did.)
1 cup coleslaw
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the jackfruit and onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low, cooking an additional 5 minutes.
2. Add the chili powder and barbecue sauce, and cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Place mixture on slider buns, and either top with coleslaw, or serve alongside.