Our friends Ali and Evan who opened a bike-friendly, veggie-heavy café in Northeast Portland this summer recently asked us to develop the “ultimate vegan breakfast sandwich” for their expanding menu. The only requirements were that it be fairly easy and inexpensive to recreate in a commercial kitchen, that it be vegan, obviously, and that it do justice to some nutso all-female roller skating dance troupe that they were thinking of naming the sammy after.
So, last weekend the Hot Knives Test Kitchen got to work. It wasn’t hard to come up with the condiments, stacking ingredients and such. We are partial to creamy spreads, so we whipped up a dill aioli out of vegan mayo. Next came the mock meat component, where we quickly settled on maple tempeh bacon. Every sandwich needs a fresh veggie and a cooked veggie, so we went for thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes and rather than the obvious spinach, we went with sautéd kale in a little soy sauce and shallots.
Last but not least we needed the anchor of the sandwich that would replace the egg. We narrowed the field down to two variations of the same idea: a mock fried egg sandwich that relied on the gooiness of a handmade polenta and made two competing sammies: Sandwich A was a patty of firm, seasoned polenta fried off to order; Sandwich B centered around a fried tomato topped with much wetter polenta that mimicked Hollandaise. Both were sickly good, although we preferred A because it was a lot easier to eat. As for which one may end up on the Little Red Bike Café menu, well, it’s not up to us, but you can check here in coming months to see if either made the cut!
Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich Ingredients
1 Tbs. vegan margarine
4 cloves garlic, miced
4 crimin mushrooms
1 tsp. fresh thyme
3 cups water
1 cube vegetable bullion
1 cup course grain polenta
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of fresh black pepper
2 3-inch strips of tempeh
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp smoked salt
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup kale, washed
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, mined
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. vegan mayonnaise
1 tsp. fresh dill
1 Ciabatta bun, or any crispy/chewy roll
1. Start by making your polenta patty. Place a medium saucepan on high heat with margarine, add garlic, sliced mushrooms and thyme and suate for about 3 minutes. Bring your water to boil in a teapot and add two cups only to the saucepan. Toss in bullion and bring back to a boil, stir.
2. Now whisk in your polenta slowly and bring down heat to medium. Cook like this, whisking every so often, for about 30-40 minutes or until thick like a rich batter. If it seems too thin, add a couple pinched more of polenta. (It will continue to thicken when cool.) Then remove from heat and immediately transfer polenta to a tall rammequin. Let it cool until firm, in the freezer it takes about 15-20 minutes.
3. In the meantime, fry up your tempeh bacon: put your paprika and smoked sat on a small plate, your maple syrup in a small bowl. Dip each slice of tempeh in maple syrup and then drop in dry spices. Then in a small pan, fry in a small amount of oil until maple syrup caramelizes to a dark brown. Set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil to blanche your kale leaves. Dunk them for 30 seconds and then drop them straight into an ice bath to keep them green. Then sauté your washed, cut kale leaves in the same pan with oil, shallots and soy until tender like sautéd spinach. Set aside.
5. Prepare aioli by mixing chopped dill with vegan mayo.
6. Once all components are ready, bring out your chilled polenta cake and remove from rammequin. Slice off one 1-inch thick slab and cook in your sauté pan with another 1 Tbs. of vegan margarine on medium heat just until slightly browning on outside and molten inside.
1. Prepare your polenta Hollandaise by bringing all three cups of water to a boil. Add bullion cube, stir. Cook on medium heat, whisking every couple of minutes for 40 minutes. Polenta should behave like slop. Season as desired. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.
2. Prepare dill aioli, maple tempeh bacon and sautéd kale as described above.
3. Fry a tomato slice, a 1-inch thick slab, in a small sauté pan with a touch of olive oil. Season as desired. Flip and cook 1 minute on each side. Serve as main component with polenta covering the rest of the sandwich layers. Use a fork.
Beverage: Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast Stout
Soundtrack: Animal Collective’s “Whaddit I Done”