Can Vampires be Vegan?
One of my many dirty little secrets is that the blonde and I love HBO. not so much for the movies, or for the sports, but for their shows. We got hooked when Six Feet Under first came out while we were in college, and ever since then we’ve been hooked on many of their series. (BTW, if you haven’t seen Six Feet Under, go buy the boxed set now. I promise, I’ll still be here when you get back. I still maintain that for 5 years it was the best show on television.)
One of our more recent television addictions is True Blood. It’s a slightly over-sexualized look at what the world would be like if vampires could “come out of the coffin” and not have to feed on humans, but could instead drink synthetic blood. The majority of the story takes place in “Bon Temps, Louisiana,” and there are werewolves, werecats, faeries, witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and even the occasional human, and it’s quite entertaining, if coarse language, naked vampires, and gratuitous sex and violence are your thing. I suppose we qualify.
Thankfully, we don’t have to keep our own love of the show hidden, as the blonde’s sisters love the series also. Every season, for the season finale, we two drive down to one sister’s house, for a season’s end party. We’ve gone a little overboard in the past, but this year, it was a bit more tame. There were no skulls hanging around, no blood bags filled with “energy drink,” and no generally supernatural “stuff” everywhere. All we had was one smallish vial filled with the “blood of the first vampire, Lilith.”
Yup. We’re those people.
Thankfully, the storyline, based on author Charlaine Harris; books in her “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series, takes place in the south, a haven for vegan eats! Sort of. . .
Rewind about 15 years. I had decided that I loved cooking, and I wanted to be a great cook, a la Emeril Lagasse. I asked for all of his cookbooks, and got three. Fast-forward 15 years, I finally make something out of one of them. . . and it’s vegan. Eventually.
I opened up my copy of Louisiana Real & Rustic, and started flipping through it. I wanted something that was fairly quick to cook, and was possible to veganize without too much effort. After skipping past the soups and the seafood sections, I settled on the “Natchitoches Meat Pies.” It seemed to be a fairly simple swap to make it vegan, and so, after clearing it with the blonde, we headed out to pick up the basics for this recipe.
The recipe calls for two different pieces: the filling, and the pastry to be filled. The filling calls for both pork and beef, but instead, we grabbed two packages of LightLife ‘GimmieLean.”
All the rest of the ingredients in the filling were vegetables or veggie based, so that swap was easy. The pastry was just as easy to veganize. The only ingredients to be altered were milk and an egg. We chose Silk PureAlmond Unsweetened plain, and, because the egg was for binding, we chose a flax egg.
Here’s the recipe, with the alterations we made. All apologies to chef Emeril Lagasse.
Vegan Natchitoches Meat Pies
1 tsp. vegetable oil (canola is ideal)
1 pkg. LightLife GimmieLean Ground Sausage
1 pkg. LightLife GimmieLean Ground Beef
1 cup coarsely chopped onion (yellow is best, white is acceptable)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red + green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
3 Tbsp. crushed and chopped garlic (or up to 5 to taste)
1 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Heat the oil over medium heat, and brown the GimmieLean. It doesn’t really “brown,” and because of the lack of oil, you may need to add a bit more oil to the pan. Stay on top of it to avoid burning.
After about 5 minutes. add the onion, peppers, celery, and spices. Cook like that for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are clear, and all the veggies have wilted.
Add the garlic, and cook for about 3 more minutes.
Dissolve the flour in the water, and add to the meat. Stir until it thickens slightly, about 3 moreminutes
Remove from heat, and add the green onions. Stir, and let cool.
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. solid Earth balance vegetable shortening (yup, not butter, shortening)
1 flax egg (1Tbsp. ground flax seeds + 3 Tbsp. water, mixed well)
3/4 cup plain non-dairy milk ( I would avoid coconut milk, as I find it to be the sweetest of the plain milks.)
**The original recipe calls for the pies to be deep fried in additional vegetable shortening. We baked ours, and so we omitted this ingredient.**
Sift the dry ingredients together, mixing well.
Cut in the shortening until well incorporated.
Mix in the flax egg, working until the dough is a thick texture, being careful not to overwork it.
Separate the dough into 12 balls, and roll them out into circles. **Emeril calls for a 5″ diameter circle. I think he meant radius.**
Scoop about a 1/4 of the filling in into each circle of dough, fold them in half, and crimp the edges down with a fork, for that pretty scalloped edge. (Growing up, we called ravioli that looked like this mezza lunas or “half-moons.”)
**This is where we deviated considerably from the recipe.**
Bake the meat pies in a 375* oven for about 15 minutes. Remove, turn over, and bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove, and let cool.
These pies were a big hit, especially in conjunction with my sister-in-law’s gumbo. She made a vegan batch for us, and we set aside some of the filling to finish it.
In retrospect, I would have served them with two dipping sauces: 1 sweet, and 1 hot. Even something easy like a mango salsa would probably work for the sweet, and something as basic as Frank’s RedHot for the hot sauce. I also think I might have added a hot pepper to the filling, and pan fried the pies before baking them.
That having been said, they were very well received by everyone. Even my 8-year-old niece tried one and liked it. She didn’t love it, but what can you do? She’s eight.
I paired these with an IPA, but that will have to wait until Wednesday. . .