Monday, June 25, 2012

Vegan Chopped: Pseudo Persian Fail

Black Eyed Pea Cutlets in Chocolate Blackberry Walnut Stew with Mint, Basil, and Parsley over Jasmine Rice 

On Thursday afternoon, I saw a post on Facebook from Isa about a Vegan Chopped contest she was running.  This was perfect timing as I had three days off and was eager to do some hardcore cooking.

The premise and rules were simple: 
You have four mystery ingredients. Create an entree using all four ingredients as little or as much as you want, and you can use anything else in your pantry.

The dish must take only about 40 minutes to prepare. You must from-scratch, vegan ingredients. You must include a title, picture and description of methods used.

Submissions will be judged on taste, creativity and presentation. 

The four ingredients are: mint, blackberries, bittersweet chocolate and black eyed peas.

I love a good cooking challenge, and while the first three ingredients were no problem, the black eyed peas threw me for a loop. I've only used them once, in a hoppin' john, and I think I've only eaten them twice besides that. I've way more familiar with these Black Eyed Peas

My first thought was to make sweet black eyed pea fritters, similar to the savory fritters a local West African place, Wasota makes and top them with a chocolate blackberry sauce and garnishi with mint, but that's not an entree, and it seemed like a "safe" choice.

I had a ton of ideas at once, all revolving around a similar sauce, chocolate mole, chocolate curry, and chocolate Persian stew. I figured I could make black eyed pea and gluten patties, kind of like the famous chickpea cutlets, but browned in a pan, then simmered in broth, and simmered in sauce or steam black eyed pea-gluten sausages and simmer them in one of those sauces. Then reality hit. Forty minutes. Forty minutes wouldn't be enough time to do all of that, but maybe I could use the chickpea cutlet template, and let them simmer in the sauce.

I decided to do a take on a Persian walnut pomegranate stew that I make frequently, since it already had fruit and tons of richness, and was garnished with more fruit and copious amounts of fresh herbs, it seemed ideal.

I made the black eyed pea cutlets, and everything was looking great. My rice was almost done, my sauce was on its way, and I had browned the patties. I sliced the cutlets into strips to help them cook more quickly, since they seemed a little soggy still. I still had about twenty minutes, and the sauce takes a while to reduce, so I added the black eyed pea cutlet strips and hoped for the best....

I should have scrapped the idea then. I knew that I needed to simmer those cutlets, but I thought maybe, just maybe simmering in the sauce would work. Blech. They were disgusting. soft and obviously not done, which is a shame, because the sauce was actually pretty good. Not as good as the original, but it could have been tweaked to be a little more tangy, a little less chocolately, and probably would have been great. There was just no way these cutlets would have worked in the time allotted.

All was not lost, though. I learned a few things. First, ALWAYS STRAIN YOUR BLACKBERRIES. These blackberries had crazy huge seeds, as big as sesame seeds and they were so hard I thought I chipped a tooth. I usually love blackberry seeds, but these monsters had the. worst. seeds. ever.

Second, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. My first thought about those cutlets was to brown them, simmer them for 30-60 minutes, then use them in a recipe. I went ahead and tried that, and lo and behold, perfect, amazing cutlets. I love them, and I can already tell they will be in frequent rotation at my house. I could even see making a big batch and freezing some, and using different types of broth.

I also gave the challenge another go.

So, here's the super easy but time consuming recipe. Don't worry, for the long simmering time they can be left mostly-unattended. 

Black Eyed Pea Cutlets
by Christina Terriquez

1 can black eyed peas
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning
safflower or olive oil
vegan broth or bouillon

Drain the liquid from the can, then rinse once, and fill the can with water just to cover the black eyed peas. Puree black eyed peas completely.  In a medium bowl, mix bean puree, gluten, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and poultry seasoning. Knead well.

Separate dough into four equal portions, roll each portion into a ball, then flatten. 

In a large cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to barely cover the bottom of pan. Brown both sides of each cutlet. Add broth or water and bouillon and simmer for an hour, adding more water as needed.

Try other seasoning in the cutlet or other broths.

This a great, basic cutlet that has flavor on its own, but can be prepared in a huge variety of ways.

This could be left to simmer in a crock pot, but I would increase the cooking time.

Dijon Mustard Potatoes, Almond and Panko Crusted Black Eyed Pea Cutlet and Water Sauteed Red Kale

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