Miyoko Schinner never expected herself to write a cookbook with the word meat in the title – even a vegan one. “I’m an odd person to be writing this book, because my own experience with meat is not that deep,” she says of her new work, The Vegan Meat Cookbook, where this recipe for vegan carnitas appears.
While she may not have eaten much animal meat in her life, she has spent considerable time thinking about how it functions in both cooking and culture. The Vegan Meat Cookbook addresses the lengthy history of faux-meat which, she writes, was the domain of Buddhist monks in Asia a few centuries before Impossible Burgers hit the scene – and makes the case that umami-rich, plant-based meat dishes can function both as a gourmet indulgence for the full-time vegetarian and as a way for flexitarians and omnivores to comfortably transition away from animal proteins.
Read our full conversation with Schinner about her book, what inspires her, and what she feeds to on-the-fence flexitarians and then make these vegan carnitas tacos, featuring a succulent and umami-rich king trumpet mushroom filling. It involves prepping the mushrooms according to her “pulled pork” method before getting started (a step which can be done up to three days prior to when you plan to serve the tacos), but the entire process still comes together to make a quick weeknight meal or fun entertaining option.
King Trumpet Mushroom Carnitas Tacos from The Vegan Meat Cookbook by Miyoko Schinner
Using the tines of a fork, pull the fork down the length of the mushrooms to shred them. Whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, maple syrup, and smoked paprika in a bowl. Add the mushrooms and toss well to coat. Marinate for about 10 minutes before cooking.
To cook, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a sauté pan and sauté the mushrooms until browned, about five minutes. Use immediately or store for up to three days in the refrigerator and reheat when ready to use.
To Make the Tacos
On a large cutting board, run through the mushrooms roughly with a knife to cut the strands into bite-sized pieces. When you’re ready to serve, return the pan with all of the mushroom “pork” to the stovetop over high heat. Cook until the mushrooms start to brown and crisp, stirring often, about five minutes. Add the cashews to the pan and cook for another minute or so, then set aside.
While the mushrooms cook, in a small bowl, combine the onion and cilantro and set aside.
To serve, divide the carnitas mixture among the tortillas and top with the onion mixture and radish slices. Serve with lime wedges and salsa.
Cheater Charred Chipotle Salsa
Place a grate over a gas stove burner on high heat. Add the onion and cook until charred on all sides, about 10 minutes total, turning the onion with tongs and allowing the layers to separate naturally as you go. You want all the layers to be tinged with black. (Alternately, you can broil the onions on a sheet pan for about five minutes, turning and rearranging every minute or so, until all the pieces are charred.)
Transfer onion to a blender with the tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, garlic, and salt. Whirl until well blended but leaving some texture, then transfer to a jar. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to one week.