Let me say this first: Just because you’re a great chef hardly means you’re a great vegan chef.
Three meals in, I’m seeing the comedy in the title of the book I’m cooking from: Great Chefs Cook Vegan. It’s an assemblage of all the biggest names from the fanciest restaurants to prove that chefs can make a gourmet vegan meal. I’ll say that again: A (one, singular) vegan meal. Not a lifetime of great vegan meals, but a one-off meal on the off chance a filthy yucky vegan makes its feeble little way into their restaurant.
These chefs are people known for their fantastic perspective on French cooking. On Southern fare and neo-American. These are all cuisines based around meat. There isn’t one vegetarian chef in the book — and it shows. These jackasses are stuffing ravioli with tofu. Just tofu. Or seasoning a soup with just salt and pepper. Not only are there little appearances of great spices, these chefs show little grasp of vegetarian stand-bys like Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, egg replacers, liquid amino acids, miso, TVP. Flipping through the book, I’m shaking my head at how retarded they seem. Tofu? Alone? Most vegetarians don’t even like the taste of a pure soybean cake. You’ve got to know how to finesse it. What to marinate it in, how to bread it…
All of what you just read was basically our conversation as we ate Bradford Thompson’s meal for the book: Celery Root Soup and Celery Apple Salad with Almonds, and a main course of personal Roast Vegetable Pot Pies. He had a salad in there of beets, but there were so many garnishes and side-garbage to prep, I just skipped it.
I spent a lot of fucking time on this meal, which I normally don’t mind. I love cooking. Cooking distracts me. It’s like I just shut off and becoming a cooking robot. It’s therapeutic for someone as neurotic as I am.
First came the dough: a fennel-infused dough. Joe hates herbed breads crusts. He’s like a bloodhound for that shit. Even if I sneak in just a tiny bit of rosemary, he’ll give me the sneer through a mouth of half-chewed food: “what’s in this?” This was heavy on the fennel, but he ate it anyway.
The idea of this recipe, I presume, is to treat gourmet-dinner-party types to a meal of comfort food. Personal pot pies, served in little bowls. How quaint. This means the crust is just a little wafer on top of a bowl – not encasing the pie like we’re normally used to. So this meant baking the crusts ahead of time. For some reason it never browned, and it wouldn’t stick to itself. Hence a Lincoln Logs effect when we dug in. Stupid. This guy’s dough is even dumb.
The first course of celery root creations were a pleasant surprise. I’d been wanting to cook with celery root for some time after watching a show about it. It’s kind of a rad little thingamajig, but damn is it ugly. The salad took grated celery root and apple and combined it with a sauce/dressing of coconut milk and other shit… all in all, it was tasty. That smear that looks like tomato sauce below it is actually apple butter. I thought it was a perfect combo.
The soup was awesome. I thought it tasted like Vichyssoise, Joe thought it tasted like Split Pea. It was neither, but it sure was tasty. Tasty enough that we did not throw the leftovers away — which we’re finding is odd for this book.
The pot pie was stupid. It took hours… HOURS to prepare. Not only does throwing a Lincoln-log crust on top NOT make it a pie, the veggies inside were not pot pie vegetables. The veggies — Brussels sprouts, turnips, leeks, baby carrots — were steamed, not baked. And there was none of that delicious sauce that, in my opinion, is the real reason to eat pot pie. Not even a fucking roux. Come on, Bradford Thompson.
Needless to say our cute little pies went in the garbage pretty fast. The book hasn’t followed it — yet.
I’m reluctant to continue this blog with this book. It’s really kind of a piece of shit and I hardly think it’s the Holy Grail of gourmet vegan cooking. I may cook one more meal out of it, just to see if there’s something else redeemable here. But I’m on the hunt for a new book to guide me — one that not only shows vegans how to make their food gourmet, but is compiled by people who actually know what the hell a pot pie is.