As the weather has been decidedly northern European this past week (cold and drizzly), I fought the urge to simply hide under the covers and whipped up two of the richer sauces I’d been putting off during the warm spell: Hollandaise and Brown Sauce. Upon my first perusal of TPC, hollandaise made me nervous. After all, isn’t it supposed to be notoriously finicky, even with out substituting any of the ingredients? But, onward I pressed, in the name of (vegan) science. My bravery paid off—I was rewarded with a slightly obscene amount of smooth, rich, beautifully-emulsified egg and butter-free hollandaise.
Per TPC’s instructions, I began with 1/3 cup of cider vinegar. I boiled it with a few peppercorns and a pinch of saffron, for color (my addition), until reduced to 1/4 cup. In the finished sauce, I found the vinegar to be a bit too pungent. In the future, I would reduce the vinegar further or use fresh lemon juice instead. I decided to substitute blended organic firm silken tofu for the eggs in this recipe, since their role is largely textural. I used roughly 3 rounded tablespoons in place of every egg, or about 2/3 cup for the whole recipe. Since eggs expand when heated, it’s necessary to use a greater volume of tofu than egg called for in the original recipe, as it remains at a constant volume. I blended together the tofu, vinegar and saffron (the peppercorns were strained out) with my trusty immersion blender until silky smooth. I then began to drizzle in the melted butter (1 1/4 cup), which was actually Earth Balance in my case. I debated using the more traditional whisking method to incorporate the butter, but I wasn’t sure how well the tofu would act as an emulsifier, so I deciding to err on the side of blending the living &$*! out of it instead. While not included in TPC’s recipe, I’ve seen many other recipes include a bit of dry mustard to act as extra emulsifying insurance as well —something to keep in mind.
In this case, my ingredients and methodology all got along famously and finished with just a pinch of salt (since EB is already salted) and about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, my lovely sauce was ready to serve. I was shocked by how authentic the sauce looked, tasted and felt. The saffron provided a gentle yellow hue (less vibrant than an egg-based version, but still satisfyingly associative) and the flavor was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional hollandaise. I’d even go so far as to say I preferred the flavor of this sauce as it didn’t have that vaguely unpleasant overtly eggy aftertaste that is often present in a traditional hollandaise. Paired with toasted english muffins, tofu rounds sauteed in olive oil, wilted spinach and roasted tomatoes, my hollandaise completed a scrumptious dinner of Tofu Benedictine, so named for the Benedictine order, one of the earliest proponents of vegetarianism in Europe. Last night, I spooned some of the leftover sauce onto a pile of steamed asparagus – eaten none-too-neatly with our fingers, it was absolutely delicious —easily the highlight of the meal.
A few days previously, inspired to use my chanterelle brown stock to make brown sauce, aka gravy, I decided to make a springtimey shepherd’s pie. The sauce began with a typical roux, cooked until golden brown, at which time you add the stock and cook until smooth and rich-tasting. I used 2 TBS oil to 3 TBS flour, but found the sauce a bit thin. For a thicker result, I would recommend a bit more roux, just keep the proportions of oil to flour the same. In my case, I stirred a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potatoes into the finished sauce to thicken it, which worked fine for this application but certainly resulted in a slightly more “rustic” result. I also added in about a cup of caramelized crimini mushrooms for good measure = good move. I boiled some russet potatoes until soft, mashed them (with a pastry blender, which worked remarkable well, if you don’t mind scorched knuckles), and stirred in a healthy dose of homemade raw oat-milk, Earth Balance and salt. The oatmilk was a revelation here; it’s rich neutral character paired perfectly with the potatoes. These were without a doubt the best mashed potatoes—ever. I also prepared a pan full of diced cauliflower, green beans, green peas and garbanzo beans seasoned with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. I poured the gravy over the veggies and topped with a (thick) layer of potatoes, dotted with a bit of extra EB. It baked for about one hour at 350 until golden on top and cooked through. It proved a wonderfully cosy dinner for a rainy evening, and the leftovers were just as good – at least so O tells me (they weren’t around for long).
Stay tuned for coming attractions: homemade vegan mayonnaise and tomato sauce, among other wonders…