Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Monster Mash!

I am not a Vegan. I have never wanted to be a Vegan. While I applaud the Vegan's motivations, I'm not sure I could do it full time. A world without honey or cheese I cannot imagine. Surely there are humane, organic, sustainable methods of producing these products out there? I am in agreement as much as the next guy that factory farming is an abomination. I am an imperfect lacto ovo vegetarian. I gave up eating meat almost three years ago. I had just purchased land in Arkansas where poultry farming is a very big business, and read an article in Gourmet on the horrible realities of raising and slaughter of poultry. I think friend chicken is the food of the gods. But surely, I did not want to be opart of a system of such cruelty. These birds did not have to be raised in tiny boxes with their beaks cut off and then put on a conveyor belt to have their heads cutoff with a rotating razor, just so I could have a nice meal? And I just had a batch of the cutest five kittens in the world born in my bookcase courtesy of a neighborhood stray. I had to ask myself "Would I want someone to eat them?" Sounds corny but there it is. And, I like cows and pigs. Pigs are pretty smart critters. I learned this when an ex bought me one for a housepet. I bet they know when the end is near. I bet they are wondering why there was a breech of trust. I think they know they have been lied to. It did not really work out with the pig or the boyfriend. But that is another story.

And so, I gave up meat. That did not mean I did not creave the taste. I was brought up on steak and potatoes and learned how to make very decent Steak and Kidney pies and Chateau Briand in cooking school. And who does not love a quickly grilled ribeye with a sauce of blue cheese and shallots? Roast pork tenderloin with applesauce? Divine.

In search of those forbidden tastes, one looks to processed foods that take the place of meat or are formulated to taste like meat, meat substitutes. Tofu? Love it deep fried! But what is not good deep fried? But have you ever tasted "sausage" made from tofu? It tastes like wet cotton. Tempeh? I like it because although a hearty protein, it is not supposed to taste like meat. It is fermented soybeans innoculated with mold. Think blue cheese. Seitan? Haven't tried it. Looks scary to me. Quorn? Maybe it tastes too much like meat.

The point is, it seems to me after not eating meat for a few years, is that if I wanted to taste meat, I would eat meat. I tried Quorn crumbles made into a Bolognese sause. It looked like meat sauce and smelled like meat sauce. When I got it onto my plate, I asked myself if I really wanted it to. Lance Romance( the partner) loved it. But he lives on meat. I just could not try it. A heavy mushroom sauce is more to my liking. The Quorn chick's patties with gruyere on the other hand, I am quite fond of. They taste like chicken breast. Which really does not taste like chicken after all. The cheese is problematic for a Vegan. They make a variety with only herbs. Tofu does not make any pretension at being meat. So it does not bother me. Did I mention deep fried?

Tempeh was an eye opener for me. I made a vegetarian chili from "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen" by Jack Bishop(abbreviated recipe below) that included this fermented soy product. Other than the recipe being underspiced, it was very tasty. But the tempeh did not taste like meat. It did not bill itself as a protein food that tastes like meat. It tasted like beans. And I am quite okay with beans in chili. I think tempeh like children, is very good if cooked properly.

Quorn has the distinction of being made in a laboatory. A mycoprotein pretty much grown in a vat. It has the same proteins I believe that make beef taste like beef. Mushrooms taste like beef if you think about it. A fungus if you will. Which is not all that scary if you consider that we eat mushrooms(a fungus), truffles(a fungus) and huitalacoche (corn fungus, trust me, it is very good.

At any rate, there are many "engineered" food products out there. Some we might feel comfortable with. Others we may fear. And still others we just despise. Efforts are underway to create meat in a laboratory setting. Abbreviated chili recipe follows with no permission granteed by Jack Bishop. I hope he does not mind. We might think of the tempeh in it as a "monster mash". It's alive! It's alive!




2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves , minced
1 small canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce minced with 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspon ground coriander
2 8 oz packages tempeh, crumbled
2 15oz cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5 oz cans diecd tomatoes
1 12 oz bottle beer
sour cream or yogurt for garnish(if you are not a Vegan)
lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil, add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring often until very aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tempeh and cook, breaking apart any chunks with a wooden spoom until well coated with spices, about 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, beer and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the coverand continue to simmer until the chili is thick, about 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve. The chili can be refrigerated for a day or two-it will improve in flavor.

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