Let’s Do (Vegan) Beer Lunch

Cooking with Beer by | Apr 2013 | Issue #75

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

On May 4th, Los Angles is celebrating the 4th Annual Vegan Beer & Food Festival. To mark this occasion, I thought it would be fitting to create some vegan beer cuisine recipes that highlight the ideals of veganism. I use the smoky, almost meaty flavors of a Rauchbier or Smoked Porter to bring umami and flavor to tofu and re-create the classic Reuben sandwich. (Not all beer is animal-byproduct free, though, so be sure to do some research before selecting your beers.) I hope you enjoy!

Rauchbier Pastrami Marinated Tofu
Unless you are a meat eater, you may have never experienced the wonderful combination of flavors in the iconic Reuben sandwich. This version, with kale and caramelized onion kraut, and cashew island dressing on toasted sour German rye bread, lets the vegan share in the experience of what so many enjoy about this classic meal.

Makes: about 6 sandwiches

Rauchbier Pastrami Brine Ingredients:
1 tbsp brown sugar, light
2 tsp pickling spice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp caraway seeds, whole
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 each garlic cloves, peeled, sliced
2 each star anise, whole
1 each bay leaves, bruised
1/2 cup water
16.9 oz Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier or Alaskan Smoked Porter
1 tbsp soy, tamari, shoyu, or liquid aminos sauce
12–14 oz tofu, extra firm

This sandwich is best if the tofu is first frozen, which allows it to absorb the marinade better. To freeze, first drain the tofu, rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Gently press on the tofu to squeeze out any remaining moisture. Place into a Ziploc-style bag, removing as much air as possible, and place into the freezer for at least 18 hours. The tofu will transform from a white to a light shade of yellow. This will not change the taste, just the texture. Transfer the tofu to the refrigerator and let thaw.

Find a larger flat container that can hold a half-gallon of brine with the displacement of the tofu. Mix together the brown sugar, pickling spice, salt, pepper, caraway, red pepper flakes, garlic, star anise and bay leaves. Add them to a hot saucepan placed over high heat for a minute or two. Stir the spices and toast them, until they start to pop. Add the half-cup of water and let come to a boil. This process will help release the spices’ essential oils, flavoring the water, and will help disperse the flavors better into the tofu. Cook down until the water has almost evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the Rauchbier or Smoked Porter, and the soy sauce. Swirl to incorporated all the flavors and pour into the large flat container.

Divide the tofu into seven even slices and place into the brine. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours to infuse the smoky, spicy flavors into the tofu. This brine can be used more than once (there are no contamination issues to contend with as there would be if brining meat).


Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Cashew Island Dressing Ingredients:
8 oz cashews, raw, soaked in filtered water for 24 hours prior to recipe
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp Rauchbier Pastrami Brine, optional
2 tsp malt vinegar
2 tsp tomato paste
1–2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)
1 tsp garlic chili sauce (available in the Asian section, also called Sambal)
1 tsp horseradish, preferably freshly grated, but prepared will work
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp capers, whole
4–5 tbsp water
3 tbsp Rejuvelac, available in most health food stores’ refrigerated section
1 tsp cornichons, gherkins, or pickles, minced
1 tsp parsley, fresh, minced

In a small container, cover the raw cashews with enough cold water to cover by a few inches, and place in the refrigerator. (This step activates some of the enzymes in the seed, which allows it to break down easier and finer, while also increasing the nutrients.) After 24 hours, drain the water and rinse the cashews with fresh water.

Add them to the pitcher of a high-speed blender or food processor, and add the salt, celery salt, the Rauchbier Pastrami Brine (if you’ve made it), malt vinegar, tomato paste (or ketchup), as much Sriracha as you like, garlic chili paste, horseradish, maple syrup, capers, water and Rejuvelac. Turn on the blender to low to grind up all the ingredients, and then increase to high; process for about 1–2 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to incorporate all the ingredients. This process should create a smooth, mayonnaise-like sauce. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the minced pickle and parsley leaves. Transfer to a glass jar with a sealable lid, label and date it.

Allow the dressing to set for at least 24 hours before using. The Rejuvulac live enzymes will culture the spread, thickening it and adding a touch of tang, much like the yogurt-making process. This dressing will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Any leftover Cashew Island Dressing can be mixed into a salad or used as a veggie dip. Makes about 16 ounces.

Kale and Caramelized Onion Kraut Ingredients:
2–3 tbsp olive oil
1 each yellow onion, medium, peeled and sliced
1 each red onion, medium, peeled and sliced
1 bunch kale, dino, stems removed and chopped
2 cups sauerkraut, drained

In a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and sauté the onions until they start to caramelize, about 7–8 minutes. Lightly season them with salt to help draw out the moisture. Add the prepared kale and toss with the onions to coat the entire mixture in the oil. Continue to sauté for 3–4 minutes, until the kale has wilted and turned dark green. Add the drained sauerkraut and stir to combine, turning off the heat and letting rest while the rest of the sandwich is prepared.

To Assemble:
Remove the marinated tofu from the beer brine, and place onto a plate or cutting board. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the slices of tofu, followed by a light coating of cracked peppercorns. Below are two options for cooking the tofu.

To Roast:
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line a sheet tray with a Silpat or parchment paper. Arrange the tofu slices on the tray. Place into the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the edges start to turn a dark golden color and the outside has a crispy skin, maintaining a spongy inside.

To Sauté:
Place a cast iron skillet or sauté pan over high heat and preheat. Pour enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Place the pepper-crusted tofu side down in the pan and cook for 4–5 minutes without moving or peeking, to develop a golden skin. Turn over and cook the tofu another 4–5 minutes.

Sandwich Ingredients:
1 loaf vollkornbrot, a German sour rye bread or another rye/pumpernickel bread

Slice the vollkornbrot bread about a quarter of an inch thick and lightly toast in the oven or toaster. Smear each slice with the Cashew Island Dressing and place the cooked pepper-crusted tofu on one side. Top the tofu with the warm Kale and Caramelized Onion Kraut mixture and top with the remaining slice of bread. Serve immediately.

Carrot Bière Elixir
Fresh-squeezed carrot juice has an abundance of flavor. From an underlying sweetness to an almost earthy finish, it can highlight many different flavors in a beer. When carrot juice is mixed with a grapefruit-flavored, Cascade hops-heavy ale (like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), the carrot’s sweetness balances out the bitterness, while playing with the carrot-orange pairing that is very common. In contrast, mixing the carrot juice with a malty Brown Ale with a touch of roast enhances the earthy mineral essences.

Makes: 16-ounce beer cocktail

12 oz New Albion Pale Ale or another citrusy IPA or a Brown Ale, like Big Sky Brewing Co. Moose Drool
3–4 oz carrot juice, preferably fresh pressed, organic, cold

Take an imperial pint glass and add either the cold IPA or Brown Ale, and carefully pour the carrot juice down the inside edge of the glass, minimizing the head. Serve immediately. 

Previous: A Note on Saisons
Next: Beer Brunch