Sunday, November 17, 2013

(Unstuffed) Vegetarian Bread Stuffing:

We're Vegetarians....There's Nothing To Stuff

Thanksgiving is upon us again my friends. It's always been a large part of my life. As much as I love and cherish my time with family this time of year, there is another huge motivator to love on this holiday. Food. Let's face it people. The food is the shining star this time of year. And I say with a devilish smile on face, family is the garnish. The biological side-dish, if you will. I know, I'm gonna catch hell for that one. (insert smiley face here)

Aside from my beloved little blog here, my lovely wife and I own a business that is food based. We cook constantly throughout the week and during the months of November and December, we are at our busiest. Busy like triple-the-business busy. So last year, we decided not to make a Thanksgiving meal for ourselves because we are slammed every day for at least two weeks prior to the holiday. Come the actual holiday, the last we wanted to do was cook. 

So we decided to go to a local casino that has this crazy huge Thanksgiving spread every year. Was I expecting the world? No. I was expecting casino food. But I've been to the buffet before and it wasn't half bad for the price. So we thought, what the hell. It's open, easy, thoughtless and hopefully somewhat decent. We are wrong. 

It was $30 smackers to even walk in the door and that's after an hour wait. The youngest person ahead of us was at least 300 years old. We were drowning amongst a slow motion sea of blue hair. You could literally smell the osteoporosis in the air. I know, I'm gonna catch hell for that one. (insert smiley face here) 

One truly golden moment of the night was, while we were standing in line waiting to get in, we watched this very elderly woman take about 6 pieces of prefab crap cake and, very slowly and very carefully, wrap each piece individually in napkins and place them in her purse. As most of you know, you're not supposed to take food out of an all-you-can-eat buffet. But she was straight-up gangster about it and did it right in front of the employees and managers. They all stopped and looked at her and you could see a few of them start to move toward her to tell her she can't do that but every single one them stopped and just walked away shaking their heads.  

So we finally got to the front of the line, paid our way in, grabbed our plates, and began the initial cruise. If you've ever been to a buffet, it's the preliminary pass you make to survey the food offerings prior to committing to any actual food. Obviously, you have the Thanksgiving fare just because it's that holiday but it's a casino. So that means you also have the Italian section, the Mexican section, and the Asian section. Nothin' like a little refried beans and sushi to go with my cranberry sauce.

Now, I assume that there have been extensive studies regarding the demographics as far as casino Thanksgiving spreads are concerned. Or maybe the dingleberry that planned this menu just didn't care.

I could lay the heartbreak down section by section but it would be pure folly. I'll just say this: After a few passes, it became painfully obvious to me that the only thing on this 150 foot buffet that we could eat was mashed potatoes (without gravy), fruit salad, and prefabricated crap desserts. Let me say it again: $60 dollars (per couple) for mashed potatoes (without gravy), fruit salad, and prefabricated crap desserts. 

Never again. 

This Thanksgiving holiday as well as all future Thanksgivings will be filthy with homemade vegetarian friendly grub. This I say with pure conviction. The first Thanksgiving-centric dish on this blog will be the stuffing. If you were to simply say "Thanksgiving" in my presence, the first thing that comes into my mind is stuffing. It's my favorite of all holiday options. So that's where I'll start....... 

This recipe was adapted from this one.

Tip: The recipe calls for unsalted butter and low sodium broth. If you use the salted kind, you will definitely want to adjust the amount of salt you add at the end. 

Vegetarian Bread Stuffing


  • 1 pound french bread
  • 8 Tbsp butter (preferably unsalted), divided
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 stalks of celery with leaves, halved lengthwise then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
  • 10 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside.

2. Cut the bread in 3/4 inch cubes. Spread them evenly on 2 baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven until the cubes are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the toasted cubes to a large mixing bowl. 

3. Wash the mushrooms under cool water then dry them over a clean towel. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces. If they are small, halve them and if they are large, quarter them. 

4. In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute over a medium high heat for approximately 8 minutes until they are golden brown. 

5. Add the celery, onion, thyme, and two more tablespoons of butter. Stir frequently until the vegetables have softened, approximately 6 minutes.  

6. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the sage, and the vegetable broth. Season with the salt and pepper. 

7. Add half the veggie / broth mixture to the bread cubes and gently fold in to evenly distribute the liquid. Then add the remaining veggie / broth mixture and repeat. You want to fold gently so that the cubes don't disintegrate while at the same time making sure the liquid is evenly distributed throughout the bread stuffing.

8. Add the stuffing mixture to your greased baking dish and bake uncovered for about 40 minutes. Once done, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Deep Fried Mushroom Po' Boy with Spicy Remoulade:

The Vegetarian Peacemaker

I have been wanting, nay, needing to make a Po' Boy for a while now. Back in my carnivore days, my wife and I took a trip to New Orleans for the Heritage Jazz Festival. We went there for the music and let me tell you, music is what we got. After the Jazz Fest ended each day, we had tickets to see shows at the various clubs around town. One show we bought tickets for started at 3:00 am. That's right, 3:00 am. It ended around 5:00 am so we hit Bourbon Street for a night cap. We rolled into our hotel at about 6:30 am for a few hours of sleep, then into the cab and off to the Jazz Fest to do it all over again. 

Being the natural born foodie that I am, trying the different foods and restaurants that New Orleans had to offer was, for me, equally as important as the festival. Some of the most amazing dishes that I've had in my life were eaten at that festival, the French Quarter and the various neighborhoods within the city. The combination of kick-ass music and food that was cooked with such passion made that city one of my favorites place on Earth. I feel this almost umbilical connection to the place. Man, I just got goose bumps. One this is for certain, I will return again someday.

Spending all day at the Jazz Festival sure did make a dude hungry. One of the many things I ate on our trip was a Po' Boy sandwich. As with many older dishes, there always seems to be debate as to how they actually came to be. One of the more popular and generally accepted versions goes like this. The sandwich was created, or at least named, by brothers Clovis and Bennie Martin in New Orleans in the late 1920's during a four month long union strike of the local streetcar workers. Having come from that line of work prior to opening their coffee shop, the Martins had much sympathy for the striking workers who were struggling to feed their families during this hard time. As a way of helping their former colleagues, the Martins decided to give free sandwiches to all the striking workers that came into the shop. Bennie Martin later said that when they would see a striking employee coming in, they would say "Here comes another Poor Boy". And the name just kinda stuck. 

As for the term The Peacemaker, or in French, La Mediatrice. That came from the Po' Boy's predecessor, which was basically the same type of sandwich. It was typically filled with fried oysters. It got it's name from the fact that husbands, returning home from a night of carousing and general debauchery, would often bring this sandwich home as a sort of peace offering in hopes that the lady of the house wouldn't bust them over the head. One thing I can tell you is that if I was out engaging in that sort of activity and had the balls to come home and give my wife a sandwich as retribution, I would have fried oysters up my nose as well as other choice bodily cavities. I could see it now. "Hey babe, I was out gettin' drunk and doin' hookers. Here's a sandwich."  My, times have changed. If it were only that easy. 

Although there are many different types of main fillings, it seems to me the more popular ones are that of little fried nuggets of goodness. If that's not entirely accurate, at the very least, it's the one I like best. That being said, that was the direction I have opted to take in this matter. The inspiration for this recipe was taken from a menu I recently saw for a local restaurant featuring a fried mushroom Po' Boy. I haven't been there yet so I cannot comment on it's greatness. But I was so immediately struck by excitement when I merely read the name, I just had to do it myself.  

This recipe is a combo of several found along the World Wide Web. The remoulade was adapted from this one. The fried mushrooms were adapted from this one. The assembly and additional fillings of the sandwich were taken from tradition.

TIP: The remoulade really benefits from time. You must let the sauce marry for a minimum of one hour. But if you can possibly let it set in the fridge for a day or two, it gets that much better.

TIP: As I have stated in other posts, my wife is "ooked out" by mushrooms. As much effort as I have invested in the endeavor of changing her mind, I have only has been met with staunch resistance. I have officially "rolled over" in this matter. No further efforts to convert her will be attempted. If this were The Spanish Inquisition, she'd have died honorably. As such, feel free to use other veggies. For her, I used medallions of zucchini. She loved it. I can also imagine broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.   

Deep Fried Mushroom Po' Boy with Spicy Remoulade


Spicy Remoulade: 

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 2 tsp Creole mustard (or whole grain mustard if you can't find Creole)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (like this one)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Deep Fried Mushrooms:

  • 15 - 20 cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 quart peanut oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer)

For the sandwich:

  • 1 French baguette
  • 2-3 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • tomatoes, sliced


1. Combine all remoulade ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. 

2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry. Ideally, let it sit overnight or longer. 

3. Wash the mushrooms under cool water then dry them over a clean towel. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces. If they are small, halve them and if they are large, quarter them. 

4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, water, baking powder, salt, garlic, cayenne and black peppers. Stir batter until smooth.

5. In a separate medium bowl, add the bread crumbs. 

6. In an assembly line fashion, dip the mushrooms, one by one, into the batter. Then place the battered mushrooms into the breadcrumbs to coat. Finally, place the battered and breaded mushroom pieces onto a plate.

7. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan until it reaches a temp of 350° F. Don't go over that because you don't want to burn your oil. 

8. Add the pieces a few at a time to oil being careful not to overcrowd the pot. I usually do about 8-9 at a time. Let them fry for a period no longer than 2 minutes. If you fry them too much longer than that, the mushrooms themselves become mushy so keep at or below 2 minutes. Once done, drain them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 

9. Cut the baguette open and tear out a bit of the inner bread to create grooves in the top and bottom of the roll. Don't take out too much of the bread, you just want to take enough to cradle your fillings. 

10. Fill the roll with the tomato, lettuce, fried mushrooms, and top the mushrooms with the remoulade sauce. 

Makes: 4 sandwiches