Something New Under the Sun? Jícama Fries!...And Two Dipping Sauces
by Victoria Challancin
From the likes of the Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to the Old Testament of the Bible, we have come to know and appreciate the words "There is nothing new under the sun." And nowhere is it as true as in the culinary world, it seems. X number of ingredients, countless ways to prepare them...but what is ever really and truly "new?"
I thought I had rendered every possible vegetable into some sort of French Fry or Chip Wannabe. Sweet potatoes, eggplant, carrot, yucca, and yes, even cactus (if you haven't made these yet, check out my recipe here for Baked Nopal Cactus Fries). And now, I proudly offer you a new one that you may not have thought of yet: Jícama Fries! Nihil sub sole novum, indeed!
A Wee Bit About Jícama
When you think about it, of course jícama should make a great "fry." Vaguely sweet and very starchy, Mexico's favorite edible tuberous root, the jícama (often called Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip), is a likely candidate for a faux fry. The Pachyrhizus erosus, whose cultivation was spread by the Spaniards via the Philippines, and from there to China and other parts of Southeast Asia, is usually eaten raw. In Mexico it is a favorite snack when sprinkled with lime juice and powdered chile and in Asia with rice vinegar and salt. Of course, it can also be cooked. It pairs well with both fruit and vegetables, and often appears in soups and stir fries (it is a terrific substitute for water chestnut, which I can't find here in Mexico where I live).
Jícama, which is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber, is composed of 86–90% water and is a good source of both potassium and Vitamin C.
Does it work as an acceptable and desirable "fry?" You bet. Par-boiling it a bit before tossing it with oil and herbs and spices takes away just enough of its natural crunchiness to make it an almost perfect choice. Below is the recipe I came up with after reading several online. I found I didn't like the idea of powdered garlic, which most recipes called for, so I grated a little fresh instead. Ditto for powdered onion. And since I was serving these with two different dipping sauces, I skipped sprinkling them with parsley for fear of gilding the lily a bit unnecessarily.
Cook's Notes: I used coconut oil, which worked splendidly. Olive oil would be nice as well, perhaps paired with smoked Spanish paprika.
Recipe: Baked Jicama Fries
Note: Seasonings are optional. Use what appeals to you.
1 medium jicama
1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin or coriander seeds (or both)
½ teaspoon dried oregano or mixed dried herbs
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon grated onion (or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, basil, or cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Peel jicama and cut into skinny fries. Bring water to boil in medium saucepan on medium heat, add jicama and cook for 8 minutes until jicama is a bit less crunchy. Drain water using a colander, transfer jicama to a large bowl and toss with olive or coconut oil, lime juice, and remaining herbs and spices. Place in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy, turning halfway. To serve: place on a serving platter with sauce on the side. Sprinkle with minced parsley
Recipe: A Quick Romesco Sauce
Cook's Note: Romesco is one of my favorite sauces. Truly. And I normally take the time to make a killer version I developed years ago for a class on Spanish Tapas. But here I chose to make an easy almost "cheat's" version which I found here, and it worked fine!
1 15-oz jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
2/3 cup blanched almonds, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
2 large cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Check and adjust seasoning.
Cook's Notes: a bit of ground chile wouldn't go amiss in this.
Recipe: Cilantro-Garlic-Lime Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice and zest of ½ lime
Kosher salt to taste
Mix ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.
An artichoke gone to flower. Made me happy.
Parting Shot: Fergus is Really a Ruby!
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende,