We actually had this dish from the Inspiralized cookbook on Tuesday. It was SUCH a nice day here, by Edmonton standards in March. It was in the 60s F so I took the little one to the playground and let him run around for a while. I had another dish originally planned but my spaghetti squash had gone bad, so I had to move this shrimp dish up a day.
I was looking forward to making this dish and cooking with this strange, weird vegetable called jicama. I’ve seen it in some grocery stores but never knew how to cook it, what to cook it with, where it comes from, and basically I knew nothing about it.
It’s different looking and I can’t think of anything else to compare it to. It’s oval and has some weight to it. I had NO idea how to prepare it.
Jicama is the Mexican turnip. Apparently this is a pretty versatile plant and is grown year round. Because it’s easy to store, it can be eaten raw, and because of its ability to quench thirst it was used on ships when the Spanish sailed to the Philippines in the 17th century. Which makes sense because a friend of mine, who is Filipino, came over to drop something off the night we were having it, and she told me her mom used to prepare it for her as a kid. From there it spread to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. So sometimes you might see it referred to as “Chinese turnip” or “Chinese potato.”
I tried to peel it with my peeler but I wasn’t having any luck because of the fibrous outer coating. Plus, the shape of the vegetable made it kind of hard to peel. It just kept clogging up my peeler, so I ended up slicing the outer layer off.
Now, this whole cooking experience was a comedy of errors. This is where it all started. Well, it actually started with the peeling. I sliced the ends off and then sliced it in half because it was just too oval to fit into my spiralizer. That didn’t work. The jicama kept popping out. I tried and tried and just got fed up. So, I chopped the jicama up into pieces and put it into my food processor to make the “rice.” I let it go until the chucks were processed but took some of the jicama out because I didn’t want it to get liquidized.
I had to taste some at this point because I knew nothing about it. Surprisingly it had a sweet flavor. I was kind of surprised because I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I was expecting a taste similar to a potato or something.
I was pressed for time since I had to change dinner plans. By the time I got started it was kind of late. The shrimp recipe calls for a spice that I had run out of and I had no idea that I ran out of the spice I needed. So I only used paprika, which the shrimp tasted fine with just that alone. Because I didn’t read the recipe ahead of time (SURPRISE!), I didn’t have time to marinate the shrimp. So I just defrosted them and threw them into the pan with the paprika.
Because I was pressed for time, I threw the jicama into another pan without thinking. I was supposed to add a few other vegetables but I just forgot and by the time I realized, I didn’t feel like chopping them up. So, all I did was squeeze a lime in with the jicama and cooked it until it had a nice soft texture. I used butter lettuce, which I’ve discovered a love for. The Kitchn has a wonderful little blurb about it.
Boston and Bibb lettuces are two varieties of a larger category of butterhead lettuces, according to the Food Lover’s Companion. All butterhead lettuces are extremely tender, with smooth, loosely-coiled leaves. When we see them in the grocery store, they’re often in plastic clamshell cases with a root still knotted at the bottom.
So, as we mentioned above, butter lettuce can be expensive for the amount you’re getting. A head is usually a lightweight little fellow, sometimes no bigger than a grapefruit. Here’s why we buy it anyway:
• The leaves have a sweet flavor that can make an amazing, beautiful salad with just a simple vinaigrette—no other toppings needed. In essence, butter lettuce looks fancy. That’s all there is to it.
• We usually have a hard time eating a larger head of lettuce before it spoils. Butter lettuce is the perfect size for two big salads or a couple of nights of small side salads. Which means we’re really getting our money’s worth because we’re not wasting food.
• The leaves are the perfect size for a sandwich, and they’re almost never limp or weak. They have a bit of crunch and good texture.
• The leaves are also the perfect size and shape for rolling around something else. They work well for Asian chicken wraps or for curling around some tuna salad.
• We find that the core is crunchy but still tender and flavorful, so we rarely cut away a lot of it. We use the whole head (again, less waste).
We also find that it’s a bit easier to wash, since the leaves are pretty loose. We’ve got half a head in our refrigerator right now, waiting for tonight’s dinner.
I served the shrimp and jiama in two separate bowls so we could fill our lettuce cups individually and with how much of each we wanted. I didn’t use lettuce with the little one though.
So, our dish lacked the coconut/Caribbean feel. Sigh. If I make this again I’ll definitely take the time to prepare everything for it.