Bet you didn’t think I had it in me. Me, cooking vegan?
I’ll admit, vegan isn’t my thing. As both a food writer and an enthusiastic omnivore, I need a field with fewer fences.
Still, I flip through all the books that cross my desk, even the vegan and vegetarian ones. A couple of weeks ago, that included a colorful book called “Virgin Vegan: The Meatless Guide to Pleasing Your Palate,” by Linda Long (Gibbs Smith, $19.99).
I dutifully looked through it and planned to move on until . . . I spotted a recipe for Southern Fried “Chicken.” It even had a picture of brown, crispy triangles that looked sort of like chicken.
Well, slap my face and call me Paula. This, I had to try.
Vegan fried “chicken” turned out to be quite the undertaking. You first slice firm tofu into triangles – to get something vaguely drumstick-shaped – and freeze them overnight. Freezing tofu is an old trick to make it chewier and more meat-like, while also making it soak up marinades better.
On the second day, you take the tofu out of the freezer and toss it in a marinade that involves vegetable broth, nutritional yeast (that one took an extra trip to Earth Fare) and multiple flavorings.
On the third day – actually the fourth day, because I had a TV appearance on the third day and was busy cutting things up for cameras – you pull it out of the marinade and dredge it in flavored flour and a beer-based batter.
And then you deep-fry it. Yes, apparently, even vegans can fry things.
While the sort-of-drumstick tofu shapes sizzled, I watched it browning in the skillet and thought of all the other things I’ve gamely battered and fried in the interest of holding a job. I’ve deep-fried Twinkies and deep-fried Mars bars. I fried pickles early in their craze, using a recipe so disastrous that I almost set my kitchen on fire.
What’s a little tofu tossed in the oil?
In the end, the fried tofu tasted surprisingly like chicken. Frozen, thawed, marinated and battered, it was juicy, like hot fried chicken, with a crispy outer crust, like fried chicken.
It was also creamy, a nice contract to the crunchy crust. Maybe tofu was meant to be treated this way.
The recipe had some difficulties, mind you. The flour coating and the beer batter made so much that I think some of the amounts had to be a mistake. I adjusted them for the version on Page 2.
It used so many herbs, it almost emptied my spice rack. And I have the deluxe, extra big spice rack. I own and actually use marjoram, for goodness sake.
Still, it did make my house smell like fried chicken. It even made me feel guilty when I ate it, just like real fried chicken.
Maybe even veganism has room to explore.
Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.
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