Serves 4 to 6
This recipe can be found in my new memoir, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From a Latino Chef, available now.
I always say to my chefs, if you can make vegetarian food taste delicious, and create something super-craveable, I think that shows more skill than just throwing pork fat on everything. This salad gets right down to it, utilizing beautiful produce and layering flavors that could satisfy even the most carnivorous guest.
This is a dish that also nods to my original New Orleans roots, with that jalapeño vinaigrette, which is similar to a dressing I learned during my days at K-Paul’s.
1 large butternut squash
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground fennel
¼ teaspoon ground yellow mustard
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
8 cups (about 790 g) Brussels sprouts
2 quarts (2 L) canola or vegetable oil for frying
1 cup (120 ml) Roasted Jalapeño Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
½ cup (15 g) cilantro, chopped, plus more for serving
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup (60 g) crumbled cotija cheese
¼ cup (45 g) pomegranate seeds
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with cooking parchment. Peel and seed the squash, then cut it into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Toss with the olive oil, salt, and all the spices, then spread on the sheet in a single layer. Roast until tender with lightly browned edges, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve the Brussels sprouts and trim their tough outer leaves. (If you prefer to roast the Brussels sprouts instead of deep-frying them, see Note.) Pour the canola oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and clip a thermometer to the side. Line a plate or wire rack with paper towels.
Bring the canola oil to 375°F (190°C) over medium-high heat and fry the sprouts in batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer them to the lined plate, season with salt, and continue with the rest.
Pour the vinaigrette into a large mixing bowl, then gently fold in the squash, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, and serrano pepper to coat. Scatter the cheese and a handful of pomegranate seeds over the top for serving.
NOTE: To roast the Brussels sprouts, line another baking sheet with cooking parchment and adjust the oven to 400°F (205°C). Prep the sprouts as described in Step 2, then toss them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt, and roast until deeply golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Roasted Jalapeño Vinaigrette
Makes about 1½ cups (360 ml)
1 to 2 jalapeños
2 green onions
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup (200 ml) grapeseed or vegetable oil
¼ cup (60 ml) rice vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 cup (40 g) fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your grill to medium-high or place a metal grate directly atop a gas burner on medium-high heat. Set the jalapeños and green onions over the flame and roast, turning occasionally, until they’re soft and charred all over. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel any papery char from the jalapeño, then remove its stem, seeds, and membranes.
Confit the garlic by covering the cloves with the oil in a small saucepan or skillet and gently warming over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until it’s soft but hasn’t built too much color. Remove the garlic when cooked and reserve the oil.
Chop the roasted jalapeños and green onions and puree in a blender with the confit garlic, rice vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar, and cilantro. With the blender still going, stream in the reserved garlic oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Use right away or store in refrigerator up to 1 week.