Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cape Cod-induced seafood cravings solved…. Fabulous Beer-Battered Tempeh “Fish” with vegan Tartar sauce

The hubby and myself recently returned from a beautiful long weekend on Cape Cod. We shared a rental house with a whole bunch of family. We did a lot of pre-planning with food for the weekend, did a big grocery shop at home and brought a lot of easy meals to keep us full and happy. The rest of our family's food plan was to pretty much eat out every meal. Well… we’re broke so that’s definitely not an option, and looking online, the vegan options out on the Cape are a bit minimal. When we got onto the Cape, we saw lobster shack after seafood stop after clam shanty, etc.. and really not much else. We ate very well with the food we brought and didn’t go hungry at all. (We made lots of Tabouli and hummus sandwiches for the beach!)

I had done a bunch of online searches before we left, and the only interesting vegan eating-out options I found were in Provincetown, so we did head out there one day to shop and go out to eat for a romantic date. We checked out this restaurant Karoo Kafe in Ptown, it's website boasted it as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free friendly. By the time we were done looking around in funky shops and enjoying the positive energy of all people in Provincetown, we found the Kafe and were super hungry. Well, the menu is really big and has lots of options, something I am definitely not the used to as a vegan. I went for the "Cape Town Stew" with tofu and the hubby got a Falafel wrap, we shared some deep-fried Pakora's for an appetizer. The service was friendly, food came out of the kitchen really fast and was quite delicious. The atmosphere was upscale fast-food, order at the counter, not really drawn out-romantic-dinner-type of place. We even tried some Cape Cod-brewed beer there. Yum! We are going to remember the name of that restaurant and try to get out there again.

My hubby had some serious seafood cravings while we were on the Cape. It is really the one non-vegan food that “still sounds good.” He didn’t cave to his cravings (his tummy thanked him for good judgment), and on upon our return home, I dug out a recipe we tried about a year ago that I knew would make him happy and satisfy those cravings.

Veg News had a recipe for Beer-Battered Tempeh “Fish” and tartar sauce in the April 2011 issue. I don’t do any sort of frying/deep-frying very often, but this recipe looked so good that I had to try it when I saw it in the issue. When I made it last year, I remember it came out good, but the batter didn’t quite stay on the tempeh and I had made big tempeh chunks... Looking at the recipe again, I hadn't cut the tempeh nearly as small as called for.

The day after we got home from the Cape, my hubby had to go back to work, but I had an extra buffer day off. He was super bummed to be back at work, so... I decided to extend the vacation to dinner that night and made a Fried “Fish”/Cape Cod feast.

I followed the recipe much more closely this time... making two whole packages of tempeh worth of beer battered/fried deliciousness (for only the two of us lol), I also made some tartar sauce, some coleslaw, picked up some Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar potato chips, little soft potato rolls the perfect size for one “fish” tempeh stick and even found some Massachusetts’s brewed beer at the beer distributor (I couldn’t find any brewed on the Cape, boo!). One change I made to the recipe was steaming the tempeh about 2 hours before dinner and letting it marinate in the fridge until it was fry time.  Veg News marinated only briefly before frying. The frying didn’t even make that big of mess! Yay!

When my hubby got home and saw the spread on the table, he was so happy and appreciative. And I was too when I started eating, this recipe came out even better than last time, the beer-batter was right on, the tempeh had a great tangy, flakey, fish-y texture, the tartar sauce was yum yum yum, the rolls were good, and of course  the chips and beer were awesome!!! I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I should have to show these off... they were too yummy to resist and I enjoyed eating them instead of documenting them. To create this dinner was definitely a bit of work, but I had lots of fun doing it on my last day off.

Disclaimer: I am completely aware this is the essence of a “sometimes food.”

Here are the recipes mostly as printed in Veg News:

for the beer-battered tempeh "fish":
2 packages tempeh, in 1/2 inch slices
1/4 cup malt vinegar
2 Tb agave 
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

2 c AP flour
1 Tb baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp cayenne powder, divided (I used Indian chili powder)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 bottle organic pale ale (I used 20 oz of Rolling Rock)

3 cups oil, for frying (I used peanut)
1/2 cornstarch  

1) Steam tempeh for 7 minutes. Remove into bowl.
2) Combine malt vinegar, agave and Old Bay seasoning. Pour over tempeh, and stir gently to coat. Allow to marinade in fridge for an hour or two. (my marinade got completely soaked up by the tempeh)
3) Prepare batter: whisk together the flour and seasonings until smooth. Using whisk, slowly stir in beer until a smooth batter forms. Put in fridge for 10 minutes while you prepare frying stuff.
4) Heat up oil (med-high heat) in a large skillet (mine is cast-iron). Set up frying station: marinated tempeh, a bowl with cornstarch, the batter, and something to put the hot/cooked food in (w/ lots of paper towels).
5) Dredge individual tempeh sticks into cornstarch, shake off extra. Then dip into batter, and allow the big globs to drop off. Then into the hot oil!! Only cook a few at a time to keep the oil nice and hot and, prevent splashes and burning yourself, etc... Cook until you see the batter puff up and get a lil browned,  turn over with tongs, 2 minutes or so a side.
6) Drain on paper towels, then eat while they are hot!

for the tar-tar sauce:
1 1/2 c Vegenaise
5 slices of sweet pickle-minced or 2 Tb relish
5 stuff green olives- minced
2 tsp dried onion powder
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
dash of salt
pinch of chili powder

1) Combine together.
2) Slather all over tempeh "fish."

*Bonus/Exciting News*

So this recipe makes a ton (a TON!) of “fish”, definitely at least enough for 6 or more people. I was a bit puzzled with what to do with leftovers. I did some Google searches for “how to store fried food” “can you freeze fried food”, etc… Basically everything I saw online said that batter fried foods can’t be stored, eat them right away or they are gross. I was NOT going to waste all this yummy “fish”!! So I took the cooled “fish” put it in plastic freezer bags and hoped for the best.

Well, we were hungry for an easy dinner the other night and I took out some of the frozen “fish” and attempted to reheat in an cast-iron skillet, it worked awesome, the batter got crispy, the “fish” was hot and maybe even tastier than the first time. I used my well-seasoned cast-iron, (added no oil, this stuff is fatty enough!) heated it up on medium heat, then simply put the frozen pieces right in, I turned them and cooked on all four sides, until hot and a little browned.  (Take that Google, you don’t know everything!)

re-heated, previously frozen "fish" guys :) sooo yum