Last year, Mark Hay cooked a turducken in a McBain kitchen and fed it to to the basketball team. Never to be outdone, Matthew Schantz made a Tofucken—a vegetarian turducken—in Nussbaum this week. He lived to tell the tale—and it wasn’t half bad, either.
Thanksgiving is a sad time for us vegetarians. No matter how much mashed potatoes or asparagus we heap onto our plates, we cannot forget the turkey’s absence. But this Saturday, instead of staring into the turkeyless void and having it stare back at me, I chose to fill the void—with Tofucken.
Tofucken is the vegetarian equivalent to the Turducken. Instead of ramming a duck into a chicken into a turkey, I placed down a bed of mock-meat, tethered several mysterious mock-meats together, and stuffed them with more mock-meat.
I had no idea where to start. My culinary experience is limited to cooking omelettes and sauteing things to put into omelettes. The only mock-meats I have ever cooked are veggie burgers in the microwave. Luckily, there are recipes for Tofucken. I followed this one, which called for one Tofucken, three stuffings, and a gravy. Due to time and skill constraints, I decided to cook only Tofucken and the mock-sausage stuffing. My goal was to pile as much fake meat as I could into one metal pan.
My Tofucken adventure began with a trip to May Wah Healthy Vegetarian, a small store in Chinatown specializing in imitation-meats. They carry everything from the standards (chicken, turkey, duck) to veggie versions of the very exotic (BBQ gizzard). I am almost certain May Wah sold nothing but fake meats. As the recipe instructed, I purchased 6 packages of mock-meats: 2 chicken, 2 duck, turkey, and sausage. I also picked up several less exciting foods from the grocery store for the stuffing.
I started by cooking a slightly improvised version of the sausage stuffing. As the recipe suggested, I made bread crumbs by ripping up a piece of French bread and baking them in the oven for around 20 minutes at 200 degrees.
I then cut up four of the fake sausages (I chose to use Veggie Hong Kong Sausage) and cooked them in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of margarine (in substitution of the soy butter called for in the recipe) over medium heat. The Veggie Sausage was a little softer than the real sausage and, also like real sausage, contained mysterious bits I could not identify (pictured below; is it onion?). I tried to mush them up as best I could as I cooked them. The sausage crackled and popped, and occasionally tiny bits exploded out of the pot. I apologize if any of my suite-mates are reading this. I might have stuccoed the walls with Veggie Hong Kong Sausage.
After 5 minutes the sausage was lightly browned and I dumped in one chopped onion. After another 5 minutes, I dumped in three stalks of chopped celery, half a chopped green bell-pepper, two tablespoons of brown sugar, and 7 cloves of chopped garlic.
I let the whole mixture cook for 5 minutes before taking it off the heat, adding two more tablespoons of butter, and folding in the breadcrumbs.
With the stuffing complete, it was time to move on to the exciting part- assembling the Tofucken. I removed the first piece of fake duck from its wrapper and laid it out on a bed of sausage stuffing. The mock-duck was molded to resemble to resemble a real duck and felt cold, damp and firm to the hands. Delicious!
Next, I took the two pieces of chicken and skewered them together, creating the structure of the Tofucken, which I affectionately named the chiducken hut. The mock-chicken was shaped perfectly: each piece was molded to resemble the side of a chicken, giving the chiducken hut a realistic shape. There were also hints of a strange canvas-like pattern on the mock-chicken. Mysterious.
Next I cut up the mock-turkey. Unlike the duck and chicken, the mock-turkey bore no resemblance to actual turkey. It came in a puck. The outer turkey-puck membrane felt like cold, wet skin and its insides had the consistency of soggy scrambled eggs.
I piled the turkey-puck inside the chidunken-hut.
Finally, I crowned the mess with the final piece of duck and surrounded the Tofucken with the remaining sausage stuffing. Driving the last skewer through top of the Tofucken. I heated the oven to 350 degrees, put the Tofucken in and cooked it for 20 minuets. When I removed it, I was overwhelmed by pride in my new creation and the strange perfume of mock-meats.
I ate a bit of the stuffing, overwhelmed by curiosity. To my surprise, it tasted pretty great. A (normally meat-eating) passerby took a pinch of the stuffing and gave a similarly glowing review. I gently loaded the Tofucken into the elevator and transported it across campus to a friend’s suite where we carved it up and dished it out.
Reviews were all positive. The duck and stuffing were especially tasty. The flavor was similar to real meat, but lighter and a little saltier. Lacking any structure of its own, the Tofucken collapsed into a sea of mock-meat and stuffing as soon as we carved it, making it difficult to judge the flavors independently. While tasty going down, the Tofucken filled everyone quickly and left them with an uncomfortable feeling in the gut. I highly recommend this dish to anyone looking for a novel way to feed many. The dish is very easy to make, and I highly recommend it to all disenfranchised vegetarians and open-minded eaters. Be warned: one Tofucken feeds a lot of people. Ten semi-enthusiastic eaters barely made through half of the one I cooked.