A perfect plate of vegan comfort food: country fried steak with very roasted carrots and a side of garlic mashed potatoes and good, down-home vegan gravy.
My Match Meats patties ready for their double dipping and frying. See my nice little assembly line set up there--it makes it so much easier to manage if you cook this way!
Today I launch a new label for my musings entitled: Almost Fifty. Why? I was jolted awake at three a.m. by a hot flash that was nothing short of placing myself inside a 450 degree oven! I love these things--it's a complete and utter loss of your own body's ability to control itself--turning you into a live furnace (a very humbling experience, but when the dogs move away from you because you make them too hot, it might be time to see about something to adjust the severity of moments like these). Yeah, so three in the morning I am wide awake and helpless. And, because according to some, my age (and I'm not yet) lends itself to being referred to as: You're almost fifty!--I thought I'd offer insights on this complete body transformation. Why the Almost Fifty? This comes from the art of "rounding up" numerically. (Clearly a male mathmetician thought this up.) If it were a woman, we'd still round down after the eights if we could. After turning thirty-five, for five years I kept saying, I'm almost forty! It actually buffered me from the shock of forty when it finally arrived--though turning forty was hard on its own. Upon turning any age after thirty, most women are "on alert"--that is: Oh, Oh, here we go. After forty, it's: Oh, Oh, there I went (and honestly, it shouldn't be--we are just beginning!). I used to watch a show called Thirtysomething--loved that show--loved the people and all their really young and professional lives. It's out on DVD now. I am not ready to relive that show yet like I am, say, Maude. I have seen plenty of women age gracefully. Unfortunately I have seen plenty not.
Thanks to scalpels and the like, I turn away in horror when I encounter a woman who obviously had "work done." You've seen them--unnaturally stretched lips covering over three-fourths of the front of the face, with a unlined forehead, but a neck that gives it all away. I have had friends go "under the knife". In one instance, I was ready to nearly end it between us when the reason for the surgery given to me had something to do with high school days and how bearing children can impact this or that part of the anatomy. Please! In another instance, a much older friend had the Lifetime Lift (or something like that, I've seen plenty of the ads)--just pulls the facial skin up like a pair of old pants and tucks the excess up around the ears. Grant it, I had run into her after not seeing her in like a year. Then blatantly and coy-like asked: Hmmm, something seems to be different about you--what is it (though I had pretty much figured this out by now)? She beamed, then leaned into me closer and said, I had a lift--and proceeded to show me her ears. I was both horrified and thrilled--I had never seen this in person, only in magazine ads and on TV. It really did make a difference--but she had the sun love bug in her, thus spent a lot of time being tan and. . . the neck--it was a dead giveaway. I will remain forever pale--that is my oath to myself after being the generation that, after my mom's generation and those orange tanning bulbs--my generation was introduced to the tanning beds--girls, run, run as fast as you can--these things are doing nothing for you! Nothing! But alas, I was of tender age when they arrived. (And I was invinceable.) Today, SPF is like soy milk: we replenish it often.
Yesterday was another lovely Midwest winter day: rain, more rain, cold temps and fog. I was craving a really wholesome meal--or as I fondly refer to it as "dude food." This is when I know a potato of some sort will make it to the table, and maybe some sort of veggie. I found myself reflecting on old meals gone by. Like the "chicken or country fried steak". This dish made a regular appearance in our home because quite often, if we couldn't afford steak, we'd be eating the ever-so-gross "pork steak" in some form or fashion. I knew to recreate this would be simple. This is an extremely easy-to-prepare vegan meal. Make sure you have an onion, flour, soy milk, veggie stock, lots of fresh ground pepper, vegan butter and canola oil on hand to whip up the gravy. Also, have the idea of what you want as your pork steak substitute in mind--for me, a package of Match Meats Beef fit the bill perfectly. Then, pick your veggie. I craved really good and really well-roasted carrots alongside a nice pile of mashed taters. Mashed potatoes are easy. I'm giving the recipe for my vegan version of the fried steaks and gravy: Yum! This may not be the prettiest meal I've taken a picture of--most gravy dishes are difficult for me to photograph. This gravy requires you to keep whisking and tasting as it comes together and should not be attempted if you have distractions going on! I had a lumpy moment or two that freaked me out a bit, but troubleshooting helped in the end--just know, your gravy may not look like mine--but go for it anyway! I gave it my best shot--oh, and if you think, Oh, those carrots look a little over roasted, that's how I like them--I'm Almost Fifty, I get to cook them any way I want!
Vegan Country Fried Steak
To season the Match:
1 package Match Meats Beef thawed, but not at room temperature
2 green onion diced
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
a shake or two of Spike seasoning or salt and pepper to taste
a shake or two of Italian herbs
Place all of this in a bowl and mix well. Form into four fairly thin patties as I did in the picture above.
To make the dredging mixture for frying:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons chile powder
a shake of your favorite dried herb
Whisk this together in a bowl and set aside.
1 cup soy milk (unsweetened if you have it)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Mix this together in another bowl and set aside.
For the gravy
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup Silk soy creamer
1 cup veggie stock
To cook the steaks and make the gravy:
First, you will want to keep these warm, you might want to set your oven temp to warm for this. Now, heat about three tablespoons of canola oil in a large pan--test the temp for frying by dropping a few flecks of flour in--if it sizzles, it's ready. Next, take one of your patties and dredge in the soy milk mixture, then flour, then soy milk, and back to flour--don't worry if this gets messy--it will and there's nothing you can do about it. Carefully place one patty in the pan at a time. Don't crowd. Cook each side for about five minutes per side--keeping the heat on medium--not high! Flip when they begin to look brown. Set these aside on a cookie tray and place in the oven to keep warm. Now start the gravy. In the same pan you cooked the "steaks" in, add the vegan butter. Whisk well. Now add the onion. Let this cook for a few minutes--until the onion gets soft and some of it begins to brown. Carefully sprinkle the flour over the mixture and whisk it until all the flour is dissolved. Now, if this looks a bit too chunky--go ahead and thin it with a bit of veggie stock. When you have a nice roux--or smooth mixture--go ahead and (in small increments) begin to add the soy milk--whisking while doing so. This will then all begin to incorporate. A lot of good gravy making is intuitive. The key is to keep the fat in the sauce mixed well with the liquids and flour and seasoned with lots of fresh ground pepper and salt--all the while, keeping a nice, smooth consistency, (unless lumpy gravy is your thing--it's up to you). You could add a dash of hot sauce at some point as well. Keep whisking, tasting and looking at consistency--this is how to get a nice gravy. Serve it up and dig in!