Become the vegan butcher – Modern farmer


As more people adopt a plant-based diet, the language we use to describe vegan meat dishes continues to evolve. We have vegan ‘cheese’, chicken wings and a jackfruit pulled pork barbecue, all made without animal products. Some refer to the modifying ingredient used, such as Tofurky, a plant-based turkey usually made from tofu. Others, like cauliflower steak, use the language of meat to describe a vegetable dish.

Longtime cookbook and vegan author Zaccary Bird embraces this kind of association. In his new cookbook, The Vegan Butcher: The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Meat, Bird provides vegans, as well as other eaters looking to consume less meat, the techniques to make meatless cooking taste like meat. It offers plant-based versions of classic meat dishes such as roast turkey, pork belly, Nashville fried chicken and Korean barbecue ribs, as well as vegan seafood, complete with scallops. with oyster mushrooms, watermelon and eggplant sashimi and Baja fish tacos. Recipes switch from basic recipes to advanced recipes in each chapter, ranging from store-bought options to crafting everything from scratch. The basics include vegetables, proteins, legumes, seasonal fruits, mushrooms and more.

Don’t get too hung up on the meat-centric terms used in some recipe names – everything in the book is vegan. As food writer Alicia Kennedy pointed out in one of his recent newsletters, the words we use to describe vegan foods are related to meat. “Our cooking language is based on meat; as more people adopt plant-based diets there will be a period of overlap as we come to new or redefined terminology, ”she writes. “Just as we are adjusting our diets due to climate change, we can adapt the meat-centric language to apply to vegetables where it makes sense without getting too attached to what exactly the dictionary definitions of things are like” ribs ”or ‘Butcher.'”

Before the release of The vegan butcher, we caught up with Bird to discuss vegetable cutting, meat substitutes, and the future of plant-based eating. And as a treat, he shared with us a mushroom steak and fried recipe with us at the end.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Modern Farmer: People generally associate the word “butcher” with meat, not vegetables. Why did you choose the title Vegan butcher for your cookbook?

Zachary’s Bird: The name and design of the cover truly captures the book’s mission: to showcase the versatility of what ingredients look like and modern plant-based techniques through familiar dishes that look, chew, and taste as you’d expect them to be. off the menu for vegans! Recipes range from simple and traditional, like homemade tofu or faux duck from tofu skin, to a vegan and gluten-free three-layered turducken so anyone looking to replace meat can find dishes that match it. excite.

MF: Although this is a vegan cookbook, a lot of the recipes have meat-centric names. What was the idea behind naming them after their meat-based counterparts despite replacing protein with other elements?

ZB: Instead of telling people who have a habit of eating fried chicken on Friday nights to have a bowl of lentils, the book tries to offer a direct vegan substitute for familiar favorites. I wanted the names of the recipes to focus on explaining what we are recreating. The book also offers a myriad of ways to substitute each ingredient to really make it clear that you can take flavors from non-vegan dishes and combine them with similar textures for incredibly similar results. For example, fried chicken in Nashville can be made from seitan, washed seitan, tofu, okara, cauliflower, or mushrooms.

MF: Will vegan food ever break out of the meat-centric terms used to describe its taste?

ZB: Of course, and it will be! But we’re still at the stage where (at least according to my social media comments) people don’t understand why a vegan would make foods that taste and look like meat. Vegans haven’t given up on meat because of its horrible flavor or texture. This is because they want to eat more ethically, ecologically or (if you will!) More healthily. It’s a simple fact that people long for the food they grew up eating, so I don’t think it’s shocking that we try to find better alternatives for them – and until we do. we come together as a company and agree that a single ingredient is the best substitute, like tofu for chicken – the easiest way to explain what we are doing is to compare it to what it is trying to be an analogue.

MF: What are your favorite techniques for turning vegetables into a meat-like dish?

ZB: Smoking, charring, and searing are all nice ways to get a little bit of a burn in there. Vegan meals tend to be veg-centric, which doesn’t stand up to long cooking times like meat does to get all that smoky flavor. So things like using a smokehouse on your [grill] or introduce liquid smoke [to a dish] can be a great shortcut to this flavor with plant-based foods. A good marinade loaded with umami (soy sauce, mushrooms, sun-dried foods, fermented foods, miso, etc.) will help add the rich flavor that is often lacking in vegan alternatives.

MF: You include diagrams that show how eggplants can be cut and made into chicken cutlet and lamb chop type dishes. Are there other fruits or vegetables that have these kind of parallels?

ZB: They make such a good parallel with those classic cross-sections that butchers have showing the different cuts of meat against the silhouette of a cow. I really wanted to invite the reader to think about plant-based ingredients the same way we explore which substitutions work for which animal product. The book contains step-by-step pictures of the process of “butchering” the ingredients prepared in the form of plant-based meat. For example, if you can get your hands on some fresh banana blossoms (as opposed to canned foods popular in vegan seafood recipes, which are also covered in the book!), I’ll show you how to separate the leaves, which are inedible but excellent. to serve things, then separate the florets and remove their bitter components to use them as pulled pork. Then we come to the heart of the flower, which can be sliced ​​fresh into a salad or, as I prefer, marinated, breaded in beer, fried then served as breaded fish with hot fries and a tartar sauce.

MF: If there was only one concept or idea to take away from your cookbook, what would it be?

ZB: The versatility of plant options! I didn’t want to just tell readers to make a bolognese from crumbled seitan, when I know lentils and nuts, homemade or store-bought chopped vegetable protein or even rehydrated textured vegetable protein (TVP) makes a big difference. great meat substitute… so I put them all in! Hope that having multiple options to use as a basis for each instills the idea that you can really explore and find your preferred alternative for a particular meat instead of trying the first one offered and deciding you don’t like it. There isn’t just one official way to do it and that’s great news for a savvy home cook.

Photo courtesy of the publisher.

Steak Fries With Mushrooms

Mushrooms and potatoes only need technique to give a convincing enough impression of fried steak.

For 4 people

2 large lion’s mane mushrooms
Sea salt and black pepper, for seasoning
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

For the fries:
3 pounds, 5 ounces large russet potatoes, unpeeled
Sea salt, for seasoning
Canola oil, for frying


For the fries, fill a large pot with cold water. Cut the potatoes to the desired thickness. Add the fries to the water as you go, replacing with cool, cold water when you’re done. Leave to soak for at least 4 hours. Drain and return the fries to the pan, cover with cool water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the fries are just soft enough to pierce. Drain in a colander, then dry completely with a clean cloth. Transfer to the freezer to cool completely and firm.

Heat canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat to 300 ° F on a kitchen thermometer. Working in batches, add the fries to the hot oil, increasing the heat just after entering the pan. Loosen the fries with a skimmer, then fry them for 8 to 10 minutes, until they form a light crust. Transfer the fries to a paper towel lined plate. Once dry, return the fries to the freezer to cool completely (reserve the oil).

Heat the oil in the pan to 375 ° F. Working in small batches again, cook the fries for 5 minutes until golden and crisp. Line a large bowl with paper towels and transfer the fries to the bowl. Mix lightly, then discard the paper towel. Immediately throw an obscene amount of salt on the fries and toss everything in the bowl.

Meanwhile, cut each mushroom in half horizontally down the middle to make thick, steak-shaped patties. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Place a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over the mushroom and press down, allowing the mushroom to simmer in its own liquid for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove them from the pan, leaving the charred pieces behind.

Combine the red wine and soy sauce, then deglaze the pan with it. Simmer for 2 minutes until thickened. Return mushrooms to skillet and coat with wine glaze for an additional 5 minutes. Serve immediately with the fries.


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