Monday, March 23, 2009

Jicama Stick-a-mas

Jícama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) is a large, bulbous root vegetable which you may have overlooked at the market. It has a thin, brown, fibrous skin and its flesh is white and crunchy, very similar to water chestnut. It has a sweet, almost nutty flavor. It is often referred to as a Mexican potato or Mexican turnip.

Jícama can be eaten raw or cooked. I probably use it more frequently raw than cooked. I like to julienne it and serve it in salads for added crunch or on a crudités platter for something different. Or you can shred it (a mandoline works great with the smallest julienne blade) and make a unique slaw.

A very common way to eat jícama is to slice it like fries, sprinkle it with chili powder and salt and squeeze with some fresh lime. Yum!

When cooked, it retains its crispness. Since it has such a mild flavor, it can add crunchiness to a variety of dishes. Try dicing it and adding to chili, stew or stir-fry. Or finely diced and added to a crab or fish cake. Its juicy crispness compliments spicy dishes well. It is a great addition to a spring roll.

It originates from Central America and goes well with many Latin flavors like cumin, cilantro and citrus like orange, lemon and lime.

To peel jícama, simply remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. The easiest way is to remove the top and bottom first, then peel top to bottom (not round and round like an apple). Rinse after peeling. A whole jícama can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It is best eaten shortly after it is peeled. It is high in dietary fiber (5 grams per 100 grams) and is a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.

Chicken and Vegetable Spring Rolls
Serves 4 – 2 rolls per person

1 chicken breast
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon coarse mustard (can substitute yellow mustard)
1 Tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1/4 red onion, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small carrot, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small green bell pepper, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small jícama, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
8 rice paper wrapper sheets, 8” size
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or basil or Thai basil)

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Spread half of the mustard on one side of the chicken breast.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the mustard side down on the pan, then spread the remaining half of the mustard on the top half of the breast. Cook until sides of breast start turning white, about 4 – 5 minutes then flip and cook completely on the other side, an additional 3 – 4 minutes.

Allow the breast to cool to the touch and shred the breast. I like to use two forks to shred chicken, using the tines to shred the meat.

While the chicken is cooking and cooling, sauté the onion, carrot, pepper and jícama in a large skillet until just al dente, about 7 – 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring continuously for about 30 seconds.

Remove the vegetables from the heat, stir in the lime juice, paprika and chili powder.

Allow the vegetables to cool.

Place one rice paper sheet in a shallow dish filled with hot water. Allow wrapper to soak for about 15 seconds, or longer so it is pliable.

Place the pliable wrapper in front of you. Add a tablespoon or so of the shredded chicken at about 6 o’clock if the wrapper were a clock dial, about 1” from the edge. Place a tablespoon or so of the vegetable on top of the chicken. Top the mixture with about 1/2 tablespoon of fresh herbs.
Taking the edge nearest you, roll it over top of the chicken vegetable mixture. Continuing rolling towards 12 o’clock until you have one full roll. Fold sides in (3 o’clock and 9 o’clock) towards the center, then continuing rolling towards 12 o’clock until completely rolled. Repeat with each wrapper.
Serve with your favorite store bought dipping sauce or mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger and a bit of sugar to taste.
EDIT TO ADD: This recipe is very versatileand you can add many different veggies in place of the ones listed. You could easily add vermicelli noodles in place of the chicken for a vegetarian option.

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