Fellas: Start cooking in an outfit like this, and any and all technical mishaps will be overlooked.
In the aftermath of this
whole Paula Deen diabetes "shocker," the one solid message we can come away
with is this: crunchy, delicious, fried stuff isn't exactly the best thing for
you. Neither is lard. Or doughnut-burgers.
Bummer. But we all knew
that was coming. Who's the guy in the tux?
That, my friends, is infectiously
passionate chef Wheeler del Torro, best known as the mastermind behind vegan
ice creamery 3 Scoops in Brighton and host of
pop-up restaurants all over the globe. Just in time for Black History
Month, del Torro is unleashing his healthy soul food pop-up restaurant, Fillet
of Soul, on Boston
during the month of February.
"I had a lot of clients
complaining that they were missing out on real soul food, which is unfortunately
a lot of deep-fried stuff," del Torro tells me over the phone. "They were all trying
to lose weight and eat healthier would contact me and say, ‘You're supposed to
be this great vegan genius, come up with something.'"
Nothing like peer--or
client--pressure to get the creative juices going. Soon he had adapted a roster
of soul food into a guilt-free ode to fresh ingredients and health-conscious
eaters. Where tradition dictates chicken and waffles, del Torro goes for faux chicken and waffles. Healthier
frying oils take the place of lard, a four-cheese mac & cheese features soy
cheese, and cleaned up versions of collard greens and black-eyed peas make the
cut as well.
His goal, he explains, is
to introduce soul food rookies to a revamped version of the beloved cuisine. Diners
will be able to call in and place orders with del Torro, and a delivery service
will run it right to your door.
When he asks me what I
classify as "soul food," I throw out the classics, imagining a muggy Southern
afternoon of cooking in the kitchen--fried chicken, lemonade, collard greens,
chocolate pie. He agrees with me, but adds that the whole point of soul food
extends past the plates, and has little to do with the actual dishes
"It's about the people you
cook with and cook for. It's really about love and sharing and making something
together," he says. "It shows that you're going to do something with your
hands, and shows you really care."
With the internet, people
are stepping away from interacting with each other," he continues. "I think one
of the bases for soul food was to get people together and share around the
Del Torro, who grew up
bouncing between New York City and London, is no stranger to
bringing people together around the world. He's taken his pop-ups, which began
as impromptu dinner parties thrown by his teenaged self, from Paris
to Tokyo and
back again. Time and again, good ol' fashioned Southern cooking charmed his
"I think a lot of people
are looking at how African Americans were able to create comfort food from scraps
and stuff that other people would throw out," he says. "A lot of people right
now are turning to soul and comfort food because people are having to learn how
to be scrappy and tough it out."
Coinciding with Fillet of
Soul will be del Torro's Dining in the Dark events, hosted at 3 Scoops, where
he gets a little fancy and throws around some high-tech foodie science
"99% of the things I do
are vegan, but I also work with other chefs and do collaborations. My goal is
to get people to try things they wouldn't always necessarily try," he says. "Yesterday,
I got invited to a culinary thing where they were having things like ox cheek
and crocodile meat. Man, there are so many cool veggies out there, and things
we can do with technology where you can make something really great."
Below are two recipes straight from
del Torro's vegan soul artillery. Cozy up to the stove with someone you love.
2 large bunches of collard greens
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 hot peppers, diced
1 fresh clove of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons of vegan margarine
1/2 cube vegetarian vegetable broth
Franks RedHot (I put that **** on everything)
Vegetable, olive, or sesame oil for sauté
Sauté garlic, onion, hot peppers, and salt in oil over medium heat
until onions begin to appear translucent. Add sautéed mixture to a large pot.
Add approximately 3 quarts of water, adjusting as needed for the size
of your collard bunches. Bring water to a boil, and mix in broth and black pepper.
Reduce heat to simmer while you prepare the greens.
thoroughly. Remove stems by tearing them leaves from top to bottom, away from
the stems. Arrange the leaves in stacks of 8-10. Roll the leaves up and slice
them into bite sized strips, about 1".
Add the greens to the pot. Add margarine and Frank's Red Hot to
taste. Cover pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Preparation time: Prep 20 minutes, Cook 60 minutes
Dry Jerk Rub*
cups unbleached all-purpose flour
tablespoons baking powder
pound mock chicken (try Healthy Chicken from May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food)
cups vegetable oil
Dry Jerk Rub: Combine equal amounts (usually a teaspoon of each) of chili
powder, cayenne, chives, onion flakes, salt, coriander, ginger, black pepper,
allspice, cloves. Grind until you have a fine powder.
margarine in a small bowl. Brush on chicken. Place chicken in a plastic bag
with rub and shake. The rub should coat the surface of the chicken.
together the flour and cornmeal in a deep bowl. In a separate bowl, place
1/2 cup water.
1/3 cup of the flour mixture to the bowl of water and stir. Add the baking
powder to the dry flour mixture and mix.
chunks of the chicken into the batter, then dredge each piece of chicken into
the flour mixture and coat.
chicken pieces in hot oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet or deep fryer
until crispy and golden brown, turning as needed.
Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 25 minutes. Cook 10 minutes
3 Scoops is located at 403 Washington Street in Brighton. 617.987.0999 or www.3scoopsboston.blogspot.com for more information. For more info on Wheeler del Torro, visit www.wheelerdeltorro.com.