Reconsidering culinary counterfeits

Awhile ago, I went on a bit of a tirade about ‘veganising’ foods. I still think it’s silly, even misguided – and that goes double for things that are inherently meat, like smoked salmon. That said, there is clearly a place for some of these kinds of foods. Not only do they remain popular with vegans, but some of them may serve to entice omnivores to the vegetable side of the fence.

Take, for example, the Impossible Burger. This is a burger made entirely of plant matter, but that behaves like meat. Unlike other kinds of patty analogs which simply warm through, or maybe brown on the outside, this fabulous technological advanceĀ begins in a raw state and transforms into a cooked state – like meat. Not only that, but according to multiple taste tests I’ve witnessed online, the Impossible Burger emulates meat well enough to be an acceptable substitute for many meat eaters.

The company is only just beginning to ramp up production for release to the public after several years of beta testing in select restaurants. This would seem an ideal time for a fast food giant to swoop in with big sacks of money on offer, and make a very public switch over to plant-based burgers. Sure, they might lose some customers, but they’d gain some too. And I don’t think any of the losses would be permanent, especially if it was a company like McDonald’s. Does anyone really go there for the quality of meat in their burger patties?

All of this is to say that I’m on side for helping people make the switch from a meat-centric diet to a more plant-centred one, and if the way to do that is through ‘veganised’ familiar favourites… Well, who am I to argue?

And so, on to the recipe! Last time, we spoke about a vegan cheesy sauce assembly based on white beans. While it’s a decent formula that is quite tasty, my heart’s been stolen by another. All because of that internet slut, Buzzfeed – well, an offshoot channel of theirs called Tasty. I saw the video awhile ago and thought the result looked too good to be true. Nevertheless, I wrote the recipe down for later testing. My friends, witness what I have brought you!

This is my (slightly) altered version of ingredients and method.

Vegan Cheesy Sauce #2

2 medium mashing or baking potatoes, peeled and chopped (2-3 cups)

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped (1/2 cup)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped (1/2 cup)

4-6 cups salted water

1/2 cup roasted or raw cashews (no salt)

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp each onion and garlic powder (not salt – granulated or powdered)

salt to taste (1/2 tsp or so)

Put the veggies and water in a pot so that the water just covers the veg. If 6 cups won’t cover them, find a smaller pot. You’re kind of trying to make a rudimentary broth, some of which will be used in the finished sauce, so the less water you can get by using the better. Just make sure you’ll end up with 1 1/2 cups for the sauce.

Turn the burner on high and bring the pot to a simmer (lid on for speed!) Once happily bubbling, turn the heat down to a maintenance temperature (about 4-ish) with the lid off or partially canted. Let this go for 10 minutes, or until the veggies are tender but not overdone*. Rescue 1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid, drain the rest off, and put the pot back on the burner. Give it a couple of stirs so that the potatoes go fuzzy at the edges.

Pour the reserved liquid back into the pot, and add in the remaining ingredients. CAREFULLY blitz with an immersion blender until as smooth as possible – be patient, since this might take some time. Alternately, you can tip everything into a heat-proof blender or food processor and let ‘er rip. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

You could use this on pasta, like some dirty pedestrian, or you could bake up a batch of hulled barley (or brown rice) and chuck in some perfectly steamed broccoli to make a scrummy mid-week meal. This would also work very well as the sauce to a baked macaroni with lovely breadcrumbs on top.

One last caveat: this doesn’t taste like cheese. It’s cheese-y. It hits all the sensory buttons that cheese sauce hits, but it’s not the same and never will be. And I’m okay with that.

*If you overcook your potatoes, or if you use the wrong kind, you run the risk of ending up with wallpaper paste instead of a nice sauce. There is some leeway here – just keep a close watch and all will be well.