Monday, October 4, 2010

Fried "Turkey" Balls

The main meal idea for last years Thanksgivingpalooza came to me like a shot in the dark. There I was, lazing about on the couch, watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and Guy Fieri was in Milwaukee, WI at The Comet Café. The Comet has a dish called “AJ’s Compact Turkey Dinner” which, essentially, is a thanksgiving dinner in a croquette. How could I see that and not immediately need to veganize? And I had to change the name, because saying “balls” is just a lot more fun than saying “compact faux turkey dinner.” Everyone deserves to indulge in crass 3rd grade humor once in a while. The balls were a hit at thanksgiving, and we kept returning to the deep fryer for a few days to make more until our arteries begged us to stop. On another note, if you’re ever in Milwaukee, stop by the Comet, and grab a vegan Salisbury steak, or deep fried vegan ribs. I’ve never had them, but their menu makes me drool. 

The Main Course: Fried “Turkey” Balls

Made enough to serve 16 of my friends 3 each and we had leftovers…

3 cups cubed “turkey” meat. (There are lots of options out there: you can cut up tofurky links, Field Roast links, deli slices, or gardien “chicken” cutlets. I actually used the "vegan chicken ham" log from Terry’s Healthy Food, which, if you are in the DC area, is a great place to get wholesale faux meats. And, major props to my friends Annie and Lauren for lovin' the logs as much as I do)
1/2 tsp olive oil for sweating vegetables
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1/8 cup minced sage leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped
7 cups cubed bread
4 cups “cheezy mash” (see below instructions)
Beer batter (mix a can of beer with flour until it’s the consistency of pancake batter)
Panko Bread crumbs
Oil, for deep-frying

¼ cup of oil from the bottom of the fry pan, including at least 2 Tbsp. of dredgings (those little crispy leftovers that pop with flavor that are left behind in the fryer)
½-1 cup flour (this is approximate and you may end up using more or less)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1-3 cups vegetable bouillon (again, this is approximate) I use rapunzel sea salt and herb
Dashes of the following to taste: salt, pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano


For the mash:
Make mashed potatoes to your taste. I generally use baby reds with the skins on and mash with veggie bouillon, earth balance, garlic salt and pepper. Since it’s thanksgiving, make all your taters at once, and just pull out 4 cups for your “cheezy mash.” Mix with ½ cup of daiya cheddar shreds and there you have it.

For the Turkey Balls:
Combine all the vegetables and herbs in a stockpot and sweat in a little olive oil. Add the bread and the stock and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer.

Dice the faux meat and add, along with the mash, to the stuffing bowl. Stir together until well combined. Form mixture into medium-sized balls (1-2 inches in diameter); dip in the beer batter, coat in the Panko breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve smothered in gravy (recipe as follows), with mashed taters and cooked cranberries on the side. Yummmmmm….

This is possibly the most confusing “recipe” I’ve ever written, because I never use recipes for gravy. I just eyeball it. So I won’t be offended if you google “vegan gravy recipe” and forego this one. However, if you’re an eyeball cook like me, have at it.

In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat your oil that you used to fry your turkey balls (and TRUST me on dredgings. This is what makes it taste all delicious.) Whisk in flour until you have a smooth thick mixture (the mixture can be almost to thick to stir anymore, that’s fine, but make sure there’s no clumps of flour or your gravy will be ruined.) Add nutritional yeast and stir into your flour mixture. Add bouillon, ¼ a cup at a time, stirring well, until you reach your desired consistency. Add your spices and salt to taste. If you make it to thin, do not attempt to add flour straight to the mixture or you will straight up ruin it. If you must add a thickener, in a separate pan, heat a small amount of oil and add flour until you get a smooth thick mixture. Briskly stir that into the gravy to thicken.

 Thanks to Deedra for the pics!

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