Sunday, December 9, 2007

Eating Right Vegetarian Breakfast Patties

What the hell is a Breakfast Patty? Maybe they are worried about alienating vegetarian consumers by putting the name of a food commonly prepared with meat in the title, but I think “Vegetarian Sausage Patties” is a more appetizing, not to mention more descriptive, name. Breakfast patties could easily be preformed McDonalds style hash browns. People who will buy this product are most likely looking to satiate a craving for sausage that doesn’t require the tissue of a cute little piggy to be ground up, stuffed into a length of its own intestines and then pan fried to do it (Um, eww, I can kind of understand why Eating Right doesn’t want to conjure up that image) and will therefore be undeterred by the descriptive name. Still, based solely on the name “Breakfast Patties”, it sounds like it could be, and probably is, made out of cardboard. It is a shame because this really is a delicious meat alternative and the closest thing to a “real sausage” taste I have ever experienced in a vegetarian product.

So what makes it soooooooo good? Let me start by explaining my past experiences with other less tantalizing faux sausage products which range in taste quality from the simply tolerable to the downright disgusting. The most glaring issue with most “sausage” products is simply that they taste nothing like sausage. I don’t place blame on the base ingredient for the various products either, be it soy, gluten, or anything else. It seems to me the fault lies squarely on the part of the recipe that I would assume be the easiest to replicate, the seasoning. Sausage has a very distinctive taste, and though it varies through its many varieties (breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, bratwurst, etc…) it is undeniably…sausagey (I know it is not a word but it describes the taste so perfectly!) Somehow Eating Right has managed to capture that taste where all others have failed.

It is sold in either link or patty form, and while I prefer the patty, they taste essentially the same. Both have a nice texture, somewhat firm and very similar to real sausage. As an added bonus it is completely egg and dairy free, a rarity in most American fake meat products, so vegans are free to indulge. I have both fried them in a pan and baked them in an oven to similar results, deliciousness! I like my breakfast “meats” peppered (bacon too!) and so I sometimes sprinkle it generously with fresh ground black pepper which I believe makes it taste even more like the real deal. I have chopped it up and cooked it with hash browns and it even makes a damn fine bagel sandwich with cheese and egg.

Eating Right is a brand of health conscious foods exclusive to Safeway supermarkets. So, unless you live in the vicinity of one (Bay Area residents like myself need not fear) you are out of luck. Sometimes supermarket products are rebranded versions of a more recognizable brand name, so you may be able to track down the same product under a different label. Both products retail for about $2.50 on sale at my local Safeway store (I have never seen them not on sale so I’m not sure what the regular price is). If you are a vegetarian who misses decent sausage, I recommend you hunt it down. You won’t be disappointed.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quorn Turk’y Roast

Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching, and if you are like me, that means one thing: throwing caution to the wind, ignoring your slowly creeping cholesterol levels, and gorging yourself silly on all manner of home cooked delectable delights; whatever you can manage to stuff down that post healthy diet induce shrunken gullet. This being my first Turkey Day as a vegetarian, I have been less than enthusiastic about the approaching holiday. Turkey Day without the turkey (and turkey related byproducts: namely gravy) is, let’s face it, just a day. All hopes for a “Happy Thanksgiving” seemed futile, that is, until Quorn came to my rescue!

You may not be familiar with Quorn; I myself wasn’t until a scant six months ago. Quorn being the brand name, it is based on a meat alternative called mycoprotein that is made from a fungus that grows on the beds of forests (yum!). If your mouth isn’t watering yet, good, cause that sounds really gross. But it is actually a very tasty (in its processed form), and healthy, replacement for meat, high in protein and fiber. It is sold in all manner of shapes and sizes from chicken style nuggets to ground beef, perfect for tacos and spaghetti sauces. A warning to vegans: egg is added during the processing of the fungus. So as it stands, this product is only for ovo-vegetarians. And though I have no proof for my theory, I’d imagine they are hard at work coming up with a vegan friendly formulation of the product.

The product I have become most smitten with, and I credit with restoring my excitement for the coming holidays, is the Quorn Turk’y Roast. I admit, at first glance, the log o’ fake turkey is not the most appetizing of sights, looking like the shriveled nubbins of an arm amputee’s stump, wrapped in a plastic cooking bag gathered at each end like a giant sausage. Though I suppose it is better than if they tried to make it look like an actual turkey (which would probably look like it was molded out of play-doh, shudder). Upon removal from the packaging it can either be placed in the oven as is with only a few holes poked in the baking bag to allow ventilation, or it can be prepared with various herbs, spices, and stuffing for a more authentic Thanksgiving presentation. Being the lazy person I am, I opted for the former method and threw it in the oven on a baking sheet at the recommended 425 degrees.

It takes only 30 minutes to cook, much quicker than your average holiday bird. After retrieving it from the oven and taking a look at the finished product, I see that the outside of the fungus log has browned slightly, though not necessarily evenly, the bottom having some dark scorch marks where it contacted the pan. If you are looking forward to a dark, crusty, skin like covering, you will be disappointed; the entire log is basically the equivalent of white turkey meat. Surprisingly there was a small amount of Turk’y juice that pooled around the bottom. Not enough to make gravy from, unfortunately, but just enough to wipe up with your finger and lick off in an attempt to tide yourself over in the presence of all that deliciously-mocking Thanksgiving grub.

Turkey is often carved at the table in grandiose fashion for all to gape in awe at the magnificent bird. Safe to say, Quorn will probably not illicit that same response. So, without much fanfare, I grabbed a sharp kitchen knife and set to work carving my Turk’y. There is in actuality very little work involved, it slices very easily into little round medallions, cut as thin or thick as you like.

The moment of truth upon me, it was time for the final payoff, in the world of fungal meat alternatives it was sink or swim…and the verdict? Swim! The Quorn Turk’y is amazingly delicious, and though it does not reproduce the taste of an actual cooked bird, it manages to capture the taste of Thanksgiving very well, tasting as if it has been lightly pre-seasoned accordingly. The texture is a cross between dry turkey meat and a hotdog, slightly softer than the real thing. It is more firm than a ballpark frank and slightly grainier, dry (but not too), like you expect turkey to be. Overall a very pleasant mouth feel. It goes very well with a vegetarian gravy and stuffing, and when mixed with these others foods in a single bite, I was hard pressed to tell it wasn’t real turkey I was eating. But as with any decent Thanksgiving meal, the real test is how well it works as leftovers. Once again, the Turk’y passed with flying colors; it made a very tasty sandwich!

Though some Quorn products tend to be a little on the bland side, the Turk’y Roast is a tasty addition to any ovo-vegetarian’s Thanksgiving Day celebration. So next time Thanksgiving rolls around, don’t cheat with that turkey meat, have a slice of Turk’y instead. Your morals will thank you.