27 March 2013
Saint Paddy's Day 2013
I've tried my hand at making veganized corned beef since my very first meat-free Saint Patrick's Day. I've had varying degrees of success with making corned beef-style seitan from scratch, but not only is is time consuming, most of them turned out to be disappointing. I've pretty much reached the conclusion that I despise seitan (sacrilege, I know). I've tried it every way you can think of: simmered, baked, steamed, seared. Nope. Do not want. So this year, my quandary was this: I'm not making seitan, but what should I do about the corned beef? It was an annual tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My mom would whip out the vintage, original model Crock Pot (which I have since inheritied) and cook us up our usual Saint Paddy's Day meal.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Couldn't I just make, like, a beef-less stew or something? No. You are wrong. I make stew all winter. Boring. And cabbage rolls? Not Irish, friend (unless you stuff them with corned beef, which brings us full circle). Not that corned beef is even necessarily Irish. No one eats it very often on the Emerald Isle, and certainly not on Saint Patrick's Day. When I visited Ireland years ago, my home-stay family all had a good laugh when I asked them about it. Traditional fare would be cál ceannann (colcannon), maybe, or some gammon (ham) with whiskey sauce. No, it is a distinctly Irish-American tradition to eat corned beef (mairteoil shaillte) on Saint Patrick's Day. Well, I am an Irish-American girl and proud of it. America has come a long way from cursing its Irish immigrants with foul names like "white n*ggers." And, much like Mexico's Cinco de Mayo, Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life have embraced the Irish holiday as their own... because it is another excuse to drink in excess.
But back to the beef. I considered corning some tofu, as it seems others in the blogosphere have done, but it just didn't seem right to me. Then I stumbled upon this recipe at I'm Not Vegan But They Are, where the blogger used pre-made Tofurky deli slices marinated in beet juice to mimic corned beef/pastrami. She notes that she did not marinate the slices in any of the usual pickling ingredients, but that's just the direction where my mind was headed. Genius! No, it's not going to yield a nice, solid block of protein to bring to the table, as a loaf of seitan might. And I know processed convenience foods – even meat-less ones – are not ideal, but this stuff tasted more like corned beef than anything I've eaten since eating actual corned beef. The leftovers made an awesome sandwich (see below) and and even more awesome hash for breakfast with some fried onion and leftover boiled potatoes (photo below). I think it even tops my previous version, which caused The Great Vegan Corned Beef Hash Debacle of 2012. It's that good.
Here is a picture of the Tofurky slices marinating. The cabbage, potatoes and carrots are in that Crock Pot over yonder cooking way with some pickling spices. I brined these babies for 3 days, and they got better and better with every nibble I stole in secret. Note the vibrant pink color from the beet juice. (The pinkness in real corned beef is caused when saltpeter [sodium nitrite] reacts with proteins in the cow blood.) Later on, I decided to stick them in the oven, hoping to make the texture a bit firmer and less flabby. The texture did improve, but cooking them diminished a good bit of the marinade's flavor and muted the pink color as well.
I was really worried what W might make of the weird pink slices I presented to him. But, to my surprise, he actually really liked it! He even asked for seconds of everything. Below is the spread we enjoyed. The pink-ish/purple-ish blob at the top of the plate was a relish I made to use up the beets I'd bought for their juice: I just grated them and tossed them with some oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Sobhlasta! (Delicious!) And, of course, we could not forget the sóid arán (soda bread).