As I get older, I gain more and more appreciation for the abundance of Mother Nature and of the work and time it takes to grow food and as a result, I always like to learn new ways to use the parts of fruit and vegetables that would otherwise end up in our compost pile. The Inuit people of the Artic say that wasting is a form of stealing and when you think about it, it is. Nothing is Nature is ever wasted, it is constantly recycled. We recently bought a pomelo. It is a variety of grapefruit that is bigger, sweeter and less bitter than the regular type and it reminded me that I could, instead of tossing the peel in our compost bin, use the white part and turn it into… wait for it… a steak or a cutlet. And if you are looking for something on the sweet side, you can also turn it into delicious candied peels (see my candied orange peel recipe).
This unusual use of grapefruit is said to have originated in Cuba during 1990 food shortages. These were hard times, and people had to improvise and come up with substitute for chicken and beef. I am not sure who came up with the idea to reuse the pith of grapefruit and turn it into a fried steak but it became a popular street food called ‘Bistec de Toronja’. Another proof that necessity is the mother of invention!
Fun facts about grapefruit
– Did you know that grapefruit was created in the Barbados by mixing an orange with a pomelo?
– One grapefruit provides the daily amount of vitamin C you need.
– There are 3 types of pulp: white, pink and red.
– China is the #1 producer of grapefruit, followed by the UN and Mexico.
While this is called grapefruit steak, don’t get too excited because this isn’t really a steak, it is more like chicken wings or cutlets. I served it to a few people and got mixed reactions. 2 really liked it and couldn’t believe that it was made from grapefruit pith and one (a picky eater) didn’t care much for it. So you may get mixed reactions! Just don’t say what it is until they tasted it. You can break the news afterwards!
The first time I tried to make this, I used a regular grapefruit so the pith was thinner. I didn’t deep fry it, I air fried it but I must have left a little bit of the zest because I could taste a touch of bitterness. So it is really important to completely remove the peel/zest. You can use a good vegetable peeler or a sharp knife if you are good with knives! Next you will cut the grapefruit horizontally in the middle to remove the flesh. You can use a spoon to delicately separate the pith and push it out. Cut sections the shape of a triangle, an oval to make it look like a cutlet or any shape you like.
Next, you need to blanch the pith for 5-10 minutes (depending if you are using a pomelo or a grapefruit and on the thickness of your grapefruit). I used a pomelo this time so I boiled it for 10 minutes. 5 minutes is plenty for grapefruit. Drain and cool down with cold water. The once white pith is now a light pink. Once you can handle holding the cutlets, gently squeeze the liquid out using your palms and a clean towel. At this point, you can take a small bite to see if all the bitterness has been removed. Make sure not to overcook it because you don’t want to turn it into mush.
One advantage to using pomelo instead of a grapefruit is that you can make larger cutlets that can be used in sandwiches, cut in strips and added to salads, etc.
At this point, you have 2 choices. If you are in a hurry you can rub some garlic and spices on the cutlets. Dip each piece first in vegan egg substitute liquid then into the seasoned breadcrumbs and cook.
For a deeper flavor, you can marinate the cutlets for a few hours or even overnight into some strong chick’n broth with spices. This steps infuses more flavors to the cutlets but isn’t absolutely necessary. Just make sure to squeeze the cutlets to drain extra marinade before cooking them.
You have a few options: pan-fry, deep fry or air fry. All three methods yield slightly different results. Pan-frying marinated cutlets yields softer cutlets. Air frying cutlets that have been dipped into breadcrumbs creates light crispy cutlets a bit on the dry side but good. Deep frying of course yields perfectly crunchy outside and soft middle.
Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.
This recipe uses powder egg replacer like Energy-C or Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer to create the liquid part of the batter. You could also use a flax or a chia egg replacer. But no worry if you don’t have either products on hand because you can easily make it with the following ingredients:
Homemade powder Egg Replacer
2 1/2 cups potato starch
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch or flour (cornstarch or arrowroot)
2/3 cup baking powder
1/3 cup baking soda
I have one favor to ask. Promise me that you won’t tell anyone what it is until they taste it. You can turn this into a fun guessing game until someone figures it out.
Let me know how it turned out!
Crispy Grapefruit Steak
- 1-2 grapefruit or pomelo
- 1 1/2 cups strong vegetable broth (Better than Bouillon Chick'n is best)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tbsp powder egg replacer
- 4 tbsp warm water
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Prepare the grapefruit or pomelo
- Peel the grapefruit making sure you removed all the zest.
- Cut in half horizontally. Using a spoon gently separate the flesh from the pith.
- Cut into cutlets shapes and set aside
- Boil enough water to cover all the cutlets. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Drain and rinse under cold water. Using your palms, squeeze the cutlets and place on a clean towel.
- Heat up 1.5 cups of water, add 2 tbsp of vegetable broth (Better than Bouillon Chick'n flavor is best for this recipe but other brands will do too).
- Add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, 1 tsp garlic powder and some pepper.
- Dip each cutlet in the marinade and set it aside for 5-10 minutes.
- Squeeze the marinade out by hand and pat dry.
Make the batter
- Mix 2 tbsp dry egg replacer with 4 tbsp warm water and stir.
- Add salt, pepper, and turmeric
Season the breadcrumbs
- Mix 1.5 cup of panko bread crumbs with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 cup finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper
Putting it together
- Dip each cutlet in the liquid egg replacer, shake off the excess, then dip in the seasoned breadcrumbs.
- If you are baking them, place each cutlet on a baking sheet making sure they don't overlap, spray with a little oil. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes flipping them half way through.
- If you are air frying them, spray some oil and fry for 16 minutes.
- If you are deep frying, make sure the oil is heated at 325 F so that they can crisp (less than a minute per cutlet). Work quickly as they can burn fast.
- Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve hot with your favorite dip or sauce.