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...