A few years ago, in preparation for a trip to New Orleans, I started looking for restaurants that served vegan food. Cafe Carmo was on my list of places to go, mainly because I read about this dish called the Vegan Rico. Those who had eaten it said it was listed as a sandwich but was more like a salad composed of a plantain patty nestled between a mess of salad greens and smoky, spicy vegan pulled pork all topped with avocado.
On that trip, we decided to go to Bennachin instead, and it was glorious. But that's a different story.
We've been back a few times since, but we have yet to eat at Carmo. After the first trip where we skipped it, I set about creating a dish that certainly sounds and looks like what others have described. Who knows it if compares? I suspect that they use jackfruit for their pulled pork, but I use these:
There is a lot to love about these Butler Soy Curls. The are non-GMO, for starters, and even better--they are made from the whole soybean. The beans are extruded at high temperature and pressure in a process that I assume is sort of like what happens at at Play-dough factory. And I mean that in the best way. I use these in a couple of different preparations. They are great as a stand in for chicken in dishes like chicken and dumplings, tortilla soup, or even stir fry. I'll show you some other time how I crisp it up for some applications (hint: it involves dredging in flour and spices after rehydrating and then running it under the broiler. Try this at your own risk and just don't burn it).
For the Rico, I rehydrate it in plain water to cover. Once the water has cooled and the curls can be handled, I squeeze the excess water out and put them in a sauce pan with a sauce made thusly:
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 can of tomatoes and chiles
1/2 a diced onion
dash of hot smoked paprika
salt and pepper
juice of one lime
4 ounces of soy curls rehydrated and drained
Saute the onions and garlic a bit to get some color on them and soften them. Add in the tomatoes and chiles, then add in the spices and the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and either run through the blender or use an immersion blender to smooth the sauce out a bit. You want the soy curls to be able to soak in some of that flavor.
I deliberately am not putting measurements on the spices because I like things pretty spicy and if you get mild chiles and tomatoes you can put more heat in than if you buy the hot ones. Also, some folks might have a pulled pork sauce that they love, which I'd be all for them using here. If you are not comfortable with winging it, start on the low end--1/2 teaspoon of each, and work your way up. I've also been known to put in some dashes of hot sauce. Play with it, use your own loved sauce, do whatever.
You can also throw the sauce blended into a slow cooker (without cooking first) and add a enough water to make the liquid cover your dry soy curls. You can skip the rehydrating if you do them on the stove top, as well, but they tend to hold a bit of the dehydrated flavor if you do that (I know, dehydrated flavor doesn't really make sense, and I'm not even sure it's not just in my mind, but I'm sticking with the phrase). You want the finished pulled curls to be juicy, but not runny. I finished the batch you see in the final dish above in a non-stick skillet, cooking down the sauce until it wasn't watery at all. The sauce gets a bit caramelized on the curls that way, sort of like they do in the slow cooker on the edges. Go with it.
The plantain patties might be a bit of an adventure if you've never had or cooked with plantains before, and if you'd rather not, you could substitute sweet potatoes for an equally yummy dish. I should come up with a name for that version. Plantains are great, though, and are wonderful sources of potassium. The patties could be used as a side dish, as they are great on their own. So, today you are getting two recipes you can use in different applications.
I like a two-fer.
3 fairly ripe plantains
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 seeded and chopped jalapenos (you know how hot you like it)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup flour (I use white whole wheat but you can swap out with a gluten free flour easily)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Select plantains that are fairly ripe. As you can see from the picture above, they should have some good black spots on them. To peel, cut the ends off and then cut in half. Slice through the peel as shown above and peel it back. Slice the peeled plantain into rounds and put in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 6 minutes or until soft enough to mash.
Once the plantains are cool enough to squash with your hands, go to town mashing them up (you can use a potato masher if you like). Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Shape into four equal sized patties and brown in a non-stick skillet prepped with oil or cooking spray until golden brown.
Spread out some spring mix on a each of four plates. You can add whatever you like in a salad here. As you can see in the first picture, I put in some cucumber and bell pepper strips are also a nice addition. Place a patty on top of the salad, then top the patty with your soy curls and avocado slices. A healthy squirt of lime juice should do it.
Angel lives in Camden, Arkansas where she writes stuff and sometimes sends it out to other people to read. She used to grade papers, but not anymore. Check out her main site to see what she's up to lately.