Jicama tacos were part of the first round of changes Kyle Schutte, executive chef at The Corner Door in Culver City, made on the restaurant's menu when he took over the kitchen this past April. "I wanted to lighten up the menu. When I came onboard, there was a lot of heavy things," Schutte says. "The tacos are really light, refreshing and fun. It hit all the things we wanted our food to be, which is good food that doesn't taking itself too seriously."
Tacos are a particular favorite food of the North Virginia native, who came out to Los Angeles in 2010. "I grew up just outside of DC. There's no taco scene at all. Then I went to Atlanta, which had some progressive places," Schutte says. When he arrived in L.A., he found that, while there are no shortage of great taco spots in the city, many were often fairly traditional.
It's this type of inquiry that led him to explore tacos as a starting point. "When I was working at Vu in Marina del Rey [now closed], I had the idea of turning a taco inside out. I went back to the kitchen, tinkered with a few things and came up with the reverse taco," Schutte says. "The tortilla is made out of chicken and what looks like fried chicken is made of tortilla.
"It's just that a blank canvas for anything. It's only limited by your imagination. Anything can be a vessel and you can put anything in them."
Schutte continues, "You can pack fine dining quality flavor and technique in something that's affordable and relatable to everybody. It's a composed dish in a bite. I think that more than anything is what gets me excited about tacos."
According to Schutte, jicama tacos at the Corner Door have gotten a pretty good response. "There's a progression of flavors until you're left with a really subtle cleansing flavor at the back of your palate. It's a small bite where one flavors enhances the next," the chef says. "We use really ripe mangos. The jicama is crispy and the pink peppercorns are crushed down. There's tangy lime zest in the center. There's all these different textures."
The chef shared a recipe for the jicama tacos, which is, as he points out, both vegetarian and gluten-free. "This recipe is fantastic for the home cook. The hardest part is probably shaving the jicama. Everything else is really easy."
With the jicama, Schutte offers a few words of advice: "If you cut one too thick, it will crack when you fold it in half. Once we cut them, we pat them dry and put them on top of each other with a a little residual water. We stick them together to keep the moisture. They're pliable," he recommends. Schutte also suggests storing the shaved jicama in lemon or lime-accented water until ready for use to keep them fresh.
Turn the page for his recipe...
From: Kyle Schutte
Serves: 2-3 people
1 bulb jicama
2 cups cold water
1. Using a chef's knife, square off one end of the jicama so it can sit flat on the cutting board. Peel back the skin using your fingers where the skin frays along the cut. When the skin has been removed, slice the jicama on a wide mandolin or slicer. If you use a slicer, be sure the blade is turned off to avoid the bulb splitting.
2. Shave the entire bulb in rounds about one centimenter thick (about the thickness of a dime). Stack the shaved rounds of jicama on top of one another and cut them into circles using a ring cutter with a 3.5 inch diameter.
3. Combine the water and the juice from the lime in a container with sliced jicama and reserve for later use.
Fermented Black Garlic Purée:
2-3 cloves black garlic
5 ounces hot water
1 pinch salt
1. After the garlic has been peeled and as much of the skins are removed as possible, add garlic, hot water and salt to a blender. Begin puréeing on the lowest speed. Gradually increase the speed of the blender while making sure the purée keeps churning. If at any time the purée stops spinning, shut off the blender and start over from the lowest speed.
2. When the blender gets to high speed allow it to run for a minute. Pass the purée through a fine mesh strainer, transfer to a squeeze bottle and reserve for later use.
1 ½ Fresno chile peppers
13 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
5.5 ounces granulated sugar
1. Cut the meat of the mango from around the pit and remove the skin. Dice mango into ¼-inch cubes. De-seed then finely mince chiles. Toss mangos with chiles in a heat resistant container and set aside.
2. Combine vinegar and sugar in a sauce pot; bring to a boil over high heat. When the vinegar comes to a boil and all the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture over the top of the mangos making sure to keep them fully submerged before covering. Allow the mangos to pickle for at least two hours before using them.
Candied Lime Zest:
6 limes limes
½ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
1. Preheat oven to 200º Fahrenheit. Using a bar zester, strip the limes from one pole to the other.
2. Combine water, sugar and lime zest in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes, and then strain the zest from the syrup.
3. Neatly place the lime zest strips onto sheet tray lined with a nonstick silicone mat making sure the pieces of zest are not touching each other. Bake the zest in the oven for 18 minutes.
4. Allow to cool at room temperature then transfer into a dry container fitted with a lid and reserve for later.
Black garlic purée
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 ounce micro cilantro
1. Drain and pat as much of the water from the shaved jicama as possible. Stack each piece of jicama on top of another for each "tortilla".
2. When the jicama is stacked, use a small spoon to put a small dollop of the garlic puree on each tortilla at 6 o'clock and run your spoon through it to through 12 o'clock to create a swipe.
3. Using a perforated spoon, drain some of the pickled mango from the syrup and place about 1 tbsp of mango on each taco on top of the garlic puree.
4. Top each taco with two crushed pink peppercorns and crumbled feta. Finish garnishing the tacos with two pieces of candied lime zest and 2 pieces of micro cilantro.
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