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Meatless Monday: Fourth of July Style!

Get festive and meat-free with these Vegan Barbecued Pulled Jack Sandwiches.

Welcome to Carroll Gardens Patch's weekly column in the spirit of the Meatless Monday initiative, which promotes going without meat one day a week to reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Here we share favorite recipes submitted by neighbors and local restaurants in which vegetables are the main attraction.

This week's recipe comes from Troy Farmer and Katie Frichtel, the vegan husband-and-wife-team who run the local design company, raven + crow studio

"We came up with the recipe after hearing that canned jackfruit—which is a large tree-born fruit common to the Indian subcontinent and the Indochine peninsula, easy enough to find in China Town and area Asian markets, and not nearly as gross as it sounds—breaks down into a texture similar to pork and takes on any flavor that you cook it with," said Farmer. "We're both originally from the South, and pulled pork sandwiches are something I especially missed from my meat-filled childhood. It's a great addition to any 4th of July barbecue festivities" 

Vegan Barbecue Pulled Jack

For the homemade Smokey Blackstrap Barbecue Sauce:

Ingredients

1 large Vidalia Onion (or other sweet onion, like Maya Gold), chopped
1 large fresh mild pepper (depending on propensity for heat, Poblano—which we usually use—Ortego Chile, or, if you're anti-heat, a Bell Pepper)
8-10 Chipotle Peppers from the can (Goya makes these, as do a number of other companies, and they can be found canned in adobo sauce in most grocery stores' latin foods section)
8 medium Garlic Cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
3 (6 oz.) cans of Tomato Paste (get a nice traditional Italian brand or organic one)
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup bourbon or rye whiskey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Hickory Smoke Flavor/Liquid Smoke
1.5 cups of water
1 Tbsp coriander (ideally freshly roasted and ground, but store-bought, pre-ground is totally fine)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (we like Droste)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp clove, freshly ground
1 tsp nutmeg (freshly-grated, if possible)
1 tsp cinnamon (freshly grated, is possible)
Salt, to taste

For the Pulled Jackfruit base:

Ingredients

Young green jackfruit in brine, canned (roughly 1 can per 3 large sandwiches)
2 Shallots per can of Jackfruit, peeled, halved, and sliced into thin semi-circles 
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil per can
1 Tbsp Hickory Smoke Flavor/Liquid Smoke per can

Method

1. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once warmed, add the onions, cook five minutes or so until a little translucent, and then add the garlic, cooking another five minutes and making sure the garlic doesn't brown too much. 

2. Bring the heat to low and carefully add the smoke flavor, sugar, bourbon, molasses, vinegars, spices, and cocoa. Mix together gently and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring a little as you go. Turn off the heat for the skillet. 

3. Cut the peppers into large chunks and add them along with the tomato paste, salt, and 1.5 cups of water or vegetable broth into a separate tall stockpot over medium-low heat. 

4. Carefully add the ingredients from the skillet to the stockpot. Allow the ingredients to simmer for about 1.5 hours covered, stirring every now and then and adding more water/broth if it starts to look too thick or anything looks like it's burning or drying out. 

5. After an hour and a half or so, remove from heat and allow to cool for a half an hour or so, long enough that you're not endangering your life if there's any splash-back when you blend it. Then, puree everything in batches in your blender or, better yet, if you've got one, use an emersion blender in the pot.

On to the jack! So, first off, when you're shopping for the jackfruit—which you'll likely need to hit up your local Asian market for—be sure you're getting the young green jackfruit in brine. There's also the mature jackfruit in syrup—you don't want that. It's sweet and...well, syrupy. 

1. Open the can or cans of jackfruit and drain with a colander over the sink. By hand, crush up the jackfruit so that it starts to break into fibrous strands of meat. You'll likely need to tear the tougher pieces near the fruit core or even cut then with a knife if you're concerned about pieces being too large. You'll also notice seeds in the meat as you do this. You can either use these—crushing them up as well—or toss 'em. Taste-wise, they're pretty much the same, the textures just less fibrous. 

2. Once you've got everything broken down and looking good, rinse it all in the colander thoroughly in attempt to get rid of as much of the brine as possible and allow to dry a bit. 

3. Back in your skillet, add your olive oil and bring up a medium low heat, adding the sliced shallot and cooking for five minutes or so, allowing it to become fragrant and translucent and allowing the edges to brown but not blacken. 

4. Add the jackfruit to the skillet, stirring to coat with oil and mix with the shallot. Cook uncovered for five or so minutes to brown the fruit and then stir and repeat two or three times for another ten to fifteen minutes to thoroughly brown edges of the fruit. 

5. Add the liquid smoke and cover, cooking for another five minutes. 

6. Uncover, stir, and add 1-2 cups of barbecue sauce per can of jackfruit used, depending on how dry or saucy you want the end result to be. Cook covered on very low for about two hours, giving the fruit enough time to fully take on the flavors it's being cooked with. Check it often to make sure there's enough liquid. Add more sauce as needed and lower the heat if you're having trouble keeping moisture in the skillet.

7. Once you're done, give it a taste—it should taste pretty good at this point and, if you want, you could go ahead and use it. Ideally though, we've found that the jackfruit really does a superb job of fully absorbing the barbecue taste if you fridge the mixture overnight and then re-heat it stovetop again the next day right before use. 

8. As far as dressing it, we like these great vegan sandwich rolls from Balthazar Bakery (pictured above), but any lightly toasted vegan bun will do. And you've obviously gotta top this with some slaw. We don't really have a recipe for the slaw we make, we just thinly slice some cabbage, a little less carrot, maybe some red pepper, a little garlic and then mix in a large bowl with a mixture of Veganaise (which you can pick up in the refrigerated section of Park Natural) and apple cider or rice vinegar (we like a 1:1.5 ratio or so, but your call), a sprinkling of sugar, salt, pepper, and a decent amount of celery seeds (those are key).

Now, bring on the fireworks!

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