All the Taste
Creating meat-free menu items to reach a new generation of diners.
Plant-based meat alternatives are no mere flash in the pan. What began as a trend has blossomed into a culinary movement driven not only by vegetarians, but also by diners who simply want to reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Today’s most innovative chefs are responding with recipes that replicate much of the flavor, texture and fill-your-belly satisfaction of animal proteins using only plants as ingredients.
“We just go for it with vegetables,” says Kate Jacoby, who, along with her husband, Richard Landau, owns Vedge and V Street in Philadelphia and Fancy Radish in Washington, D.C.
According to Jacoby, the secret to successful vegan cooking is giving produce the same care and attention chefs typically lavish on meat.
“It’s not the meat itself that makes people want to eat it, it’s what chefs do to it,” she continues. “If you served a piece of raw chicken it would make people sick, and you wouldn’t want to just boil it—it takes steps to get people to respond to it.”
The multi-step recipe for Vedge’s eggplant braciole, for example, produces a vegan main that’s every bit as robust as its beef-based counterpart
“Instead of using meat, we take very thin slices of eggplant, poach them in olive oil to make them pliable and tender, then wrap them around a filling of roasted cauliflower and smoked eggplant,” Jacoby explains. “We roast that in the oven and cover it with a vibrant, Sicilian-style salsa verde.”
The same creativity is evident in V Street’s Wizkid Philly, a mix of grilled seitan, mushroom and onion on a Sarcone’s roll topped with a rutabaga ‘wiz.’
Mark Ford, executive chef of Anoosh Bistro in Lexington, Ky., uses green jackfruit, beets and other produce as substitutes for meat in a variety of dishes.
“We use lentils in our vegetable Bolognese, which have an earthy, meaty flavor, and we marinate portobello mushrooms and grill them to get a nice char,” he says. “We also roast cauliflower until it caramelizes, because we want to create the same Maillard reaction that you get from searing meats.”
Ford explained that even if a restaurant isn’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian, focusing on a few elevated plant-based dishes can tip the balance for some diners.
“It’s usually the picky person in the group that gets to choose the restaurant,” he says with a laugh. “We’re giving them a lot of options.”
“We use lentils in our vegetable Bolognese, which have an earthy, meaty flavor”
- Mark Ford, Executive Chef, Anoosh Bistro, Lexington, Ky