JOHN T. EDGE’S THE TRUCK FOOD COOKBOOK + A Q&A

As John T. Edge explains in his new book, The Truck Food Cookbook, (which we mentioned here) the food truck phenomenon that has swept the country over the past several years has been exciting to watch. Citizens of many American cities are challenging the regulations placed on food truck vendors in an effort to make streetscapes more alluring and encourage the street food movement. (Note: A simple Google search reveals an ongoing–sometimes heated–dispute between cities and food truck owners.)

Food trucks are practical on several fronts when considering the state of our economy – they offer value-driven meals and are relatively inexpensive start-ups.  Plus, our current society has become accustomed to eating on the go, which has also contributed to the movement. Rather than venturing into fine-dining ambitions, young chefs have opted “to dish the culinary equivalent of the Great American Novel from retrofitted taco trucks.” Immigrants are using the mobile meals approach to showcase their native cuisine. Consumers have begun to blend a demand for “quick access food” with a desire for “honest and delicious food,” and street food has answered the call on both fronts.

In addition to his insights on the food truck movement, John T. Edge provides us with over one hundred street food recipes as well as vendor bios and beautiful photographs by Angie Mosier. I am a lover of truck food. One of the most memorable meals of my life was a dish called the “Thurman Murman,” which fused Southern pulled pork, mac and cheese, and Korean kimchi with Indian roti bread to make a Mexican-style taco. So, I was excited to try out some of the recipes in The Truck Food Cookbook.

I’ve been a long-time fan of tacos al pastor, a smoky-savory-spicy Mexican dish with thin-sliced morsels of pork, so I decided this dish would be a good place to start. The recipe for the al pastor marinade is involved, but the yield is high and can be frozen and stored away to use in any number of dishes. I incorporated some of the marinade with black beans and scrambled eggs for a delicious breakfast taco and intend on using some of the batch with braised chicken thighs and steamed rice in the near future.

John T. and Angie Mosier were in town for Shindig, where the Billy Reid team outdid themselves this year with music, gaiety, and, yes, food trucks.  We threw a few questions at Angie Mosier and John T. and here’s what we got:

What’s your favorite truck, or what would be your fantasy truck?

AM: Sean Brock’s Crispy Pig Ear and Chicharones Wagon
JTE: Fried Chicken and White Bread. Dark meat only. Whiskey and sweet tea punch in to-go tumblers.

If you were to quit your job and buy a truck today, what would you sell?

AM: Pimento Cheese
JTE: I tried that tack. Sold weenies. (Read more about Dunce Dogs in the book’s introduction.) And I failed. I’ll never run a truck again. It’s too much work. I’d rather “eat” truck than “make” truck.

What color/model truck would you choose?

AM: Airstream Trailer
JTE: Having given me a choice in truck and color, well, I’ll reconsider. Orange. Shading toward cayenne. A stepside, with flames licking the sides.

Favorite food truck moment during the writing of this book?

AM: Hanging out with the gals on the Chef Shack Truck in Minneapolis, Minnesota
JTE: Actually came after the book was released. The boys from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck hosted a signing for me. At a mortuary in the East Village of NYC. And they hired a drag queen escort, Bambi Galore. Here’s a pic of us together.

We would have loved to have been assistants on this project…

For the following recipes, I combined the taco shell recipe from East L.A. Tacos (page 211), with the pork al pastor from Kogi’s High Noon Quesadillas (page 241), and the kalbi marinade from the Korean Short Ribs (page 99).

PORK AL PASTOR

6 cups Kalbi Marinade (see recipe below)
2 cups kochojang (a thick Korean chili paste that can be found in Asian markets)
1/2 cup kochukaru (Korean crushed red chile flakes)
3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and cut in half
1/2 cup whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 pounds pork butt, sliced 1/8-inch thick (have a butcher do this for you)
1 1/2 pounds pork belly, sliced 1/8-inch thick

Combine the kalbi marinade, kochojang, kochukaru, jalapenos, garlic, and sugar in a blender and puree until smooth.

Place the pork butt and belly in a large bowl and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade into the pork until fully covered. (Save any unused marinade for other projects.) Let the pork marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Pat dry with paper towels. Cook the pork and onions, turning several times, until the meat is cooked through and the onions are browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork and onion mixture to a bowl.

TACOS

1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1/4 cup chopped scallions, both white and green parts
1/4 cup Chile Vinaigrette (page 211 of The Truck Food Cookbook)
4 teaspoons canola oil
8 small corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade (page 87 of The Truck Food Cookbook)
2 cups pork al pastor (see recipe above)
1/4 cup Salsa Verde (page 243 of The Truck Food Cookbook)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted and crushed

Combine the onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Toss the cabbage, romaine lettuce, and scallions with the chile vinaigrette in another small bowl and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Heat the tortillas on each side just before assembling the tacos.

To assemble the tacos, put equal amounts of meal on each tortilla, add a tablespoon of salsa verde, then put some of the onion and cilantro mixture on top, followed by the cabbage, romaine, and scallion mixture. Sprinkle the tacos with the toasted sesame seeds.

KALBI MARINADE

2 cups soy sauce
2 cups maple syrup
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 scallions, white and light green parts coarsely chopped
1/3 cup cloves garlic, peeled
1 small kiwi fruit, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 Asian pear, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
3/4 cup Sprite or 7UP
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup Asian (dark) sesame oil
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Make the kalbi marinade: Place the soy sauce, maple syrup, sugar, onion, scallions, garlic, kiwi, Asian pear, Sprite, orange juice, sesame oil, sesame seeds, mirin, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. You’ll have about 6 cups of marinade. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week (or frozen for future use).

These recipes were shared with permission from Workman Publishing.

Thank you to John T. Edge for making a beautiful cookbook and for sharing thoughts on food and trucks, and to our dear friend, Angie Mosier, for the beautiful photos. Check out The Truck Food Cookbook Tumblr for more food truck insights from John T.


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