Plant-based meats haven’t always had the best reputation. They didn’t necessarily mimic the taste and texture of meat.
But when the expert cooks at America’s Test Kitchen did a tasting of the newest products in this category two years ago, they were impressed.
“We really changed our minds,” said Jack Bishop, chief creative officer at America’s Test Kitchen. “The Impossible and Beyond Burgers are head and shoulders above earlier generations.”
It made the team ask “Is there a book here?”
The answer was yes.
“Cooking with Plant Based Meat” has 75 vegan and vegetarian recipes presented with all the beautiful food photography that makes one ready to create magic the kitchen.
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“That concept gets more important each year to more people,” Bishop added.
America’s Test Kitchen is uniquely qualified to capture and release the secrets for plant-based meat. As a multimedia company with a mission to create perfect recipes and find the best cooking tools and ingredients, they publish cookbooks, magazines, Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, and PBS television shows for both.
Bishop said the new book offers more than serving those living a vegetarian lifestyle or cooking for someone who does. It helps bridge the gap between carnivores and vegetarians.
“It hits the sweet spot,” Bishop said, that inspires all kinds of eaters.
A home cook knows they can’t prepare meat for a vegetarian. But what if they could make a meal of plant-based meat to satisfy the carnivore?
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That’s the goal of the cookbook, said Bishop. It’s to bring harmony to the family table with food that is delicious for all kinds of eaters. No longer will the cook of the house have to make two dinners, but one for all kinds of eaters.
Sound like a pipe dream?
Bishop swears if you understand the properties of plant-based meat and learn how to prepare it, and use the book’s recipes, everyone wins. He defies anyone not to love the Crispy Fried Tacos for Taco Tuesday or Rice Noodle Bowl with Scallion Meat Patties for a lighter dish.
What is the best way to cook an Impossible Burger and other plant-based meats to perfection?
But before the cooking begins, you have to understand how plant-based meats acts.
“From a textural perspective they are going to behave differently,” Bishop said. “They aren’t great rare and they aren’t great well done.”
That means it’s best to cook the meat to medium doneness (130-135 degrees). That yields the best tender, juicy results.
Also note, it cooks quickly. Burger patties cook in just 2 to 3 minutes a side compared to 3 to 5 minutes for beef. That means paying close attention to recipe times.
Plant based meat doesn’t release liquid, either. So you have to add some broth or water to saucy dishes like chili or taco fillings.
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Bishop also said cooks have to think about adding flavors. That means abundant seasoning.
They need umami. That is the fifth basic taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is a savoriness, widely present in fermented products. Bishop suggests using tomato paste to pack in that savoriness. Other recipes call for soy sauce, tamari, miso and even olives which add a salty, savory flavor.
“Some products also have a sweetness that is sometimes okay and sometimes not,” he said. The bottom line is they need more spices.
“These meats can take a lot of salt,” he said.
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Bishop also said to reverse the cooking process. Don’t start by cooking the meat as there is no sear to be had.
For the tacos, it’s important to cook the onion and bloom the spices in oil before adding the plant-based meat. This is a technique repeated for many recipes.
To make fast-food-style burgers, cooking on high heat also requires pressing the burgers with a heavy pan such as a Dutch oven.
Here are three recipes printed with permission from the book.
Crispy Fried Tacos with Almonds and Raisins
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
12 ounces plant-based ground meat
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup canned tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chopped grapes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
12 (6‑inch) corn tortillas
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12‑inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chipotle, cinnamon, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until firm crumbles form, about 3 minutes.
Stir in broth, tomato sauce, raisins, vinegar, salt, and pepper and simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in almonds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer meat filling to bowl; wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
Thoroughly brush both sides of tortillas with 2 tablespoons oil. Arrange tortillas, overlapping, on rimmed baking sheet in 2 rows (6 tortillas each). Bake until tortillas are warm and collapsible, about 5 minutes. Remove tortillas from oven and reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.
Place 3 tablespoons filling on 1 side of 1 tortilla. Fold and press to close tortilla (edges will be open, but tortilla will remain folded). Repeat with remaining tortillas and remaining filling. (Filled tortillas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)
Serves 4 to 6
Double Smashie Burgers
¼ cup mayonnaise (egg or plant-based)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
½ teaspoon pepper
12 ounces plant-based beef
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 burger buns, toasted if desired
1½ cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 slices cheese (dairy or plant based)
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup dill pickle chips
For the burger sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. It can be refrigerated for four days.
For the burgers: Wrap bottom of Dutch oven with aluminum foil. Cut sides of 1-quart zipper-lock bag, leaving bottom seam intact.
Using moistened hands, pinch off and roll ground meat into 8, 1½-ounce portions, then roll each portion into balls.
Enclose 1 ball in split bag. Using clear pie plate or baking dish, press ball into even 3½-inch-wide patty. Remove patty from bag and transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Sprinkle patties on 1 side with salt and pepper. Let chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Spread 1 tablespoon burger sauce over each bun bottom, then top with lettuce; set aside.
Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Place 4 patties in skillet and weight with prepared pot. Cook until well browned on first side, about 1 minute. Remove pot, flip patties, and cook until just cooked through on second side, about 15 seconds.
Transfer burgers to prepared bun bottoms, then top each burger with 1 piece of cheese. Add remaining 4 patties to fat left in skillet and repeat cooking process.
Divide patties among burgers and top with remaining cheese slices, onion, pickle chips, and bun tops. Serve, passing remaining burger sauce separately.
Rice Noodle Bowl with Scallion-Meat Patties and Cucumber
8 ounces rice vermicelli
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided
1½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 English cucumber, cut into 2‑inch-long matchsticks
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 scallion, sliced thin on bias
12 ounces plant-based ground meat
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Off heat, add noodles and let sit until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water; set aside. Whisk soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil, ginger, and garlic together in large bowl. Combine cucumber and vinegar in second bowl.
Spray aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Combine scallion and 2 tablespoons soy sauce mixture in medium bowl. Break ground meat into small pieces and add to bowl with scallion mixture. Gently knead with your hands until mixture is well combined. Using your moistened hands, divide meat mixture into 12 lightly packed balls, then flatten into ½‑inch-thick patties. Transfer patties to plate and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12‑inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Using spatula, transfer 6 patties to skillet and cook until well browned on first side, about 3 minutes. Flip patties and continue to cook until browned on second side and meat registers 130 to 135 degrees, about 2 minutes. Transfer patties to plate and tent with aluminum foil while cooking remaining patties. Repeat with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and remaining 6 patties. Transfer patties to cutting board and chop into large pieces.
Add noodles to remaining soy sauce mixture and toss to combine. Divide noodles evenly among 4 bowls and top with meat, cucumber, and cilantro. Serve.
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