Sunday, April 10, 2011
Now You Will Make Some Vegan Club Sandwiches
Last week I had to do a day of driving around with a coworker to handle some work stuff. The coworker I was with is an older guy, who doesn't fully "get" the idea of eating vegan, but is pretty easy going about it. Especially since he grew up on a beef farm. Anyway, we were in a rural area about an hour away from the city and I was pretty certain there wasn't going to be any exciting lunch options for me. "Just pick whatever place you want," I told him. "I'm just going to end up eating french fries anyway." And so it was. I had some french fries and he ordered a club sandwich.
Ahhh, the club sandwich. I'd forgotten such an excellent thing existed. I started thinking about ways to veganize it right away.
Lucky for me, we were having people over for a second annual games night, which meant I needed to get a party menu together. Last year I did vegan BLTs, so it seemed like vegan club sandwiches were the perfect sequel.
In case you don't know or don't remember, a traditional club sandwich goes like this: bread, tomato, lettuce, chicken, bacon, bread, tomato, lettuce, chicken, bacon, bread. And between all of those things is mayonnaise. Yikes. For my version, I could have easily (albeit expensively) used a bunch of processed fake meats to replace the real meats, but I decided not to go that way. I chose tofu to replace the chicken and decided that avocado would be a tastier and healthier stand-in for the bacon than any packaged fakey bacon on the market.
And wow. This was a Sandwich of the Gods. I got a lot of "I can't believe this is vegan!" and a bit of "What did you do to this tofu?" which are some of my favourite food compliments. And even though I used up an entire loaf of bread to make the sandwiches for the party, the Man of Science said he wished I'd made twice as many. I don't think he actually wanted to share them with our guests.
Vegan Club Sandwiches
(The labour intensive part of this is the cooking and marinating of the tofu, so we'll start there)
1 1/2 blocks of tofu (using blocks that are approximately 1 pound each)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated with a Microplane grater
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
You're going to use a technique for the tofu called "dry frying", which makes the tofu suck up marinade like nobody's business.
First, cut the tofu into rectangular slices, approximately 1/4 inch thick, and lay them out flat on a cutting board. Cover them with a tea towel and place other cutting board on top of them, then weigh that down with something heavy- cans of beans, cast iron frying pans, The Riverside Shakespeare- whatever.
After ten minutes or so, heat a non-stick or well seasoned frying pan over medium heat and release your tofu from its crushing bondage. Lay a single layer of tofu slices down on the hot pan and use a spatula to press them slightly. The tofu will release more water and make a hissy, whistley, sizzling noise.
After four of five minutes of cooking and a second pressing with the spatula, flip the tofu. It may stick slightly, but if you're careful you should be able to flip it without calamity. (I do this with my cast iron pan and haven't had any trouble)
Squish the tofu with your spatula again and let it cook for a minute. Repeat. Then remove tofu from the pan.
When all the tofu has been dry fried, spread it in a shallow pan.
Mix remaining ingredients and pour the mixture over the tofu.
I left mine in the fridge all day before serving it, but I've also dry fried and marinated tofu for stir fries in the past and left it marinating for only twenty minutes or so before eating it and it was still delicious.
When your tofu has marinated to your satisfaction, you can start assembling your sandwich. Here's mine:
I cut the crusts off the bread (just a regular nine-grain loaf) and toasted it before I started assembling. I also realized that I had no mayonnaise and so shockingly expertly whipped some up from scratch with some soymilk, lemon juice, salt, paprika, and vegetable oil poured very slowly into a blender where all the other ingredients were being swiftly blended. It worked really well and I'm as surprised as you are.
All in all, it was a very fun night and these sandwiches were the belle of the ball. I'll be posting more about party food as the week goes on. Wait until you see the desserts.