Breadfruit Is The Unique Way To Bulk Up One-Pot Stews

The tropics aren't just known for their lush rainforests and sunny beaches but also for a bounty of exciting and flavorful fruits and vegetables. Breadfruit is one of the tropics' most versatile and sustainable gifts. A close cousin to the recently fashionable jackfruit, breadfruit is a large gourd with off-white, starchy flesh and a hard, bright green, often spikey shell. True to its name, breadfruit's flesh releases a bread-like aroma when cooked, while its starchy flesh assumes the consistency and flavor of a potato with a unique nuttiness.

Breadfruit will bulk up one-pot stews with the same heft as potatoes while also offering a novel taste to enhance and complement any other ingredient you throw in the pot. While their size and hard shell suggest grueling prep work, breadfruit is surprisingly low maintenance. You can remove the spikey skin after or before cooking the breadfruit, and you can cook the gourd whole or sliced. Breadfruit welcomes any cooking method, from baking and roasting to steaming or frying. You can make breadfruit ahead of time, adding chunks to your stew and letting them absorb all of the flavorful broth. If you want to use breadfruit as a hearty thickening agent, you can cut it in half, steam it flesh-side down in an inch of simmering water, then blend it with a bit of broth before adding it to your stew. Breadfruit's versatility paves the way for countless applications in stews and beyond.

Flavor pairings and classic breadfruit stews across cultures

Breadfruit's potato-like heft and rich, earthy, and nutty flavors pair well with any type of meat, vegetable, and seasoning. As a tropical cultivar, breadfruit stews often use other tropical ingredients and spices. They're featured in curries, creamy lentils, and fish stews elaborated with rich coconut milk to further enhance breadfruit's nuttiness. You can also use them instead of potatoes in a hearty beef stew with a simple mirepoix, stewed tomatoes, and bay leaves. It's best to add breadfruit pieces precooked to stews as they will become mushy and dense if you boil them for long periods. That said, a popular recipe in the Seychelles boils breadfruit in fish broth, then blends it into a uniformly thick stewed soup.

Jamaican recipes sometimes opt to pan-fry breadfruit chunks and use the residual charred bits with the frying oil to sautee the base ingredients like aromatics and spices before reincorporating the breadfruit and adding broth or coconut milk. Pan-frying the breadfruit will create a crunchy crust and smoky flavor that will better absorb a thick broth and add more depth of flavor to the stew. Most stewed breadfruit recipes call for mature breadfruit, but underripe and overripe breadfruit offer unique flavors and textures that are equally useful. If you have any leftovers, you can fry them into chips, serve them as a pan-fried side dish, or even use overripe breadfruit as a sweet addition to your morning smoothie.