There are SO many foods I never tried before I went vegan. Many of them I cringe at the though of trying, but sometimes I wonder - how can I accurately veganize something without knowing what it tastes like? But then it occurs to me, perhaps never knowing what it really tasted like allows me to enjoy a NEW version of that food merely inspired by their "meat & potatoes" version. They can stand alone in my mind and be completely delicious without having to harken back to flavors I remember. As delicious as a chickpea salad sammie can be, it will never replace the very powerful flavor & scent memories I have eating tuna fish sandwiches with my dad when he'd come home late from work.
Suffice it to say, such delicacies like fermented shark meat are not really on my bucket list of "Things I Really Want to Recreate", and I think we'd be wise as vegans to let that shit GO. And really, probably let a lot of old "normal" foods go, like steak. You're not getting a vegan steak, people. That's just not happening.
But every now and then, I see a dish and think to myself - now I can DEFINITELY make a delicious vegan version of that.
The croque monsieur is a french dish created in the early 1900's designed for the changing times, namely a desire for a "quick lunch". Roughly and hilariously translated, croque monsieur means "crunchy mister". Traditionally, it's grilled to a crisp in butter, filled with ham and some fancy french cheese, and then covered in a delicate béchamel sauce, sometimes stuck in the broiler to brown. My version is fried in earth balance, filled with tempeh bacon, daiya cheddar cheese and topped with a delicate cashew cream sauce, and it's absolutely fantastic.
Because I've never tried a real croque monsieur, and I'm sure a cashew sauce is very different from a béchamel, I like to call this a crunchy mister. I'm not sure this will bring back any old memories you have of sitting in parisian cafes and people watching, but it will be delicious. It's vegan, inspired by a croque monsieur, and sure to be worth a few new food memories.
The Crunchy Mister (A Vegan Croque Monsieur)
Serves 2 people
1/2 cup Daiya Cheddar-style Cheese
4 pieces of whole wheat bread
2 tsp of earth balance buttery spread1 recipe of cashew béchamel (recipe below)
Green onions and paprika for garnish
* Place 1 tsp of earth balance in a pan on medium heat with a pinch of salt. Allow it to melt and start to bubble a bit.
* When ready, your bread on the pan. Using 1/4 cup of daiya cheese per crunchy mister, place half the cheese down, then 1/2 of your tempeh, then the rest of your cheese, then the other slice of bread. The daiya cheese acts as a sticky layer to prevent the tempeh from falling around.
* Spread the remaining tsp of earth balance, 1/2 tsp per sandwich, on the top layer of bread. Cover with a lid and allow to brown and get crispy for about 1-2 minutes. Be sure to check and make sure they are not burning!
* Flip your crunchy misters and allow the other side to cook for about 1-2 minutes as well.
* Remove from pan. Top each sandwich with 1/2 of your cashew béchamel sauce, sprinkle with paprika and green onions, and enjoy immediately.
To Prepare the Cashew Béchamel
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1 tbsp earth balance
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- a pinch of turmeric for color
- salt and pepper to taste
* Rinse your cashews and place in a blender. With the cashews in the blender, fill your blender to the 1 1/2 cup line with cold water. Blend for about 7-10 minutes until very smooth.
* Place cashews in a pan with your spices and nutritional yeast. Cook on medium to high heat for about 8 minutes, allowing to bubble and thicken.
* Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tbsp of earth balance.