Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the Kitchen: Candle Cafe Reuben

B. and I have developed a pretty deep affection for tempeh reubens. This recipe came well recommended by Swell Vegan. This week it seemed it would be hard to get a reuben in at a restaurant, so we opted to try to make another at home. I'm happy to give you the recipe below, gleaned from this website. We halved it, but a bit roughly, so I'll just put what we ended up putting in. I'll note that there were many ingredients here I sort of resented buying, simply because I never use them any other time. Mostly the apple juice. But really blame is due to Trader Joe's, for having things like apple juice and vegan mayonaise only in gigantic containers, not the recipe, which turned out pretty awesome. I made a commitment to follow the recipe as much as possible, and I stuck to it -- even when it meant sending B. to the neighbor's for an eighth of a cup of ketchup.

Adapted Candle Cafe Tempeh Reubens (makes 2 sandwiches)

1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used more garlic than the original recipe, because I love garlic)
4 slices of fresh ginger (I never know what recipes mean by "slices," I just shaved off a generous amount)
8 ounces of tempeh, cut into two sandwich-sized pieces
4 slices of rye bread
Approximately 1/4 cup sauerkraut
Approximately 1/2 cup caramelized onions

Russian Dressing:
1/4 cup of vegan mayo
1/8 cup ketchup
1/8 cup stone-ground mustard
1/8 cup finely chopped onion (We used dried minced onion we had in the cupboard).

You can follow her steps in the recipe. We pretty much did what she said, flipping halfway through during the marinating and also again when it was baking in the oven. B. was in charge of caramelizing the onions, though truthfully, neither of us were quite sure what that meant. I feel like all the times I've caramelized onions have been by accident.

I have to say he did a pretty good job, despite the fact I kept ignoring the timing of the recipe, and told him to start the caramelizing while the tempeh was still marinating, realized we didn't need over half an hour to caramelize onions, then made the same mistake again right when the tempeh went into the oven.

I did most of our shopping at Trader Joe's, so our mayo was Trader Joe's Reduced Fat version, and our bread was this Black Sour Rye, basically a cross between sourdough and rye. We assembled the dressing at about the same time we prepared the tempeh for marinating, so both got about half an hour in the fridge.

The tempeh baked for another 30 minutes, and were we ready for it. The recipe didn't say to toast or grill the bread, but we decided to toast it in B's toaster oven. It couldn't accommodate all four pieces, so we did the two bottom pieces first, and started assembling the sandwich while the top pieces of bread toasted. We slathered a bit of dressing on (it turned out quite thick, maybe because we used dehydrated onion instead of fresh), placed the tempeh slabs, added sauerkraut 'til it looked about right, then divided the onions between the two. When the top pieces came out, they got the dressing treatment also. We ended up with a couple tablespoons of extra dressing.

We were definitely ready to dig in (with our Apple Blossom cocktails, an attempt to use up a bunch of the apple juice) but I found my sandwich to be so pretty I had to go outside and try to get a good picture.

Let me just say that B.'s first words were, "Wow, this is really good." I was having my mind sort of blown as well. Later he stated that if we had ordered this in a restaurant, he would have come away very pleased.

I for one was very gratified that we'd actually followed the recipe. Because it was one frickin' tasty sandwich. I don't know if it was the combination of apple and maple flavors, the caramelized onions, or the McMenamin's Terminator Stout mustard we used in the dressing, but there was a delicious, smoky flavor to the sandwich. I almost would have sworn we'd put some liquid smoke in there. The bread was pretty good, too. Even though it threatened to fragment a little when I sliced the sandwiches, it held up quite well and I thought complimented the other flavors. It wasn't as pungent as other ryes, but there were so many other good flavors, it was good to have a bread that didn't overpower the sandwich. We might have toasted it more in the future. We were so eager to eat, and didn't want the tempeh to get cold, so each piece only got lightly toasted in the toaster oven. We were also too lazy to warm up the sauerkraut, but because the onions were warm, the tempeh was hot out of the oven, and the bread was toasted, we thought the over all temperature of the sandwich was good.

The only other improvement we could think of was that we should have tried to slice the tempeh lengthwise, to make it thinner, as the lovely author of "i eat food" does with her reubens. I had considered this at the start of the recipe, but this particular tempeh seemed a bit fragile and I didn't trust my knife skills, despite the fact that this was a lesson we'd learned long ago, when attempting other reuben recipes.

Over all, we give this sandwich a big hand all around. The recipe is so simple, yet in our experience, yields very tasty and complex results. Though apple juice is never really found in my fridge, and I almost didn't purchase it to use a scant half cup, I think it was definitely worthwhile, and I appreciated a marinade that didn't assume oil was necessary. All in all, I think the only real source of fat in this recipe was the dressing, which had a hefty amount of mayonnaise. The sandwich ultimately felt as light and healthy as it came out on paper.

I think we have to give this sandwich, a TRUEBEN, by the way, a 4.5 out of 5. This sandwich is so good...maybe our quest is over and we don't need to eat out anymore. Gasp!


Anonymous said...

yay! so glad you liked it!

i don't buy apple juice very often either, but my tip is to buy frozen apple juice concentrate and just make enough for the recipe. in a pinch, you can also use apple sauce (it makes the marinade thicker, but still imparts the apple flavor).

this makes me really wish i had a tempeh reuben in my hand RIGHT NOW!

TJF said...

Yeah, I was surprised at how well the apple juice marinade worked. I was expecting it to be too sweet, but that wasn't the case. The apple sauce is a good idea, as I usually have some of that around for baking.

Thanks for reading! If you have any personal reuben recipes you want to share, let me know. This one was great though, definitely one I'll make again.