Corned beef was not something I anticipated missing as a vegan. I was never a huge fan of corned beef and cabbage (too much fat – gross) or corned beef sandwiches. But, BUT, I forgot about Reubens. I loved Reubens. I’m not sure it was ever really about the corned beef, but the combination of salty chewy with creamy savory and the bit of sauerkraut plus toasted bread … yes, please.
So, I didn’t go looking for a way to replicate corned beef until I had a Radical Reuben at the Chicago Diner (if you are in Chicago, GO, GO NOW!). And then I realized that I had to make this happen more often. I started making my own versions without any meat substitute. They were pretty good. I made it with smoky seitan instead, and that was pretty good. And, if I ate out at a vegan restaurant, I looked for a Reuben and ordered one if I found it.
Then recently, soy curls happened to me (cue celestial music). These little suckers are almost magic. If you miss the chewy density of a meat based item, they work wonders. And, like many soy based items, they don’t have much flavor on their own but are willing to take on flavors around them.
Saturday night, my daughter requested pickled beets for Sunday dinner. It turns out she hates pickled beets, but that’s another story. I was boiling the beets and looking at the water and vaguely remembered seeing a suggestion somewhere to use beet juice to color seitan. So… after I finished the boiling, I kept the pickling spices handy and drained off the bright red water, and this happened.
1 package soy curls*
4 cups “beet water” (from boiling beets) or puree a can of beets and thin with water
1 cup apple cider or white vinegar
1 T pickling spice or 5 whole cloves + 1 cinnamon stick + ½ tsp dill + 1 clove minced garlic + ½ tsp peppercorn + ⅓ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp sea salt
2 T olive oil
Heat beet water, vinegar, pickling spices, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat. Add soy curls, cover, and allow to soak for an hour (more is fine).
When ready to cook, drain remaining liquid well. Soy curls will now be nice and bright. Put olive oil in the bottom of a large pan and sauté until curls begin to slightly brown.
Just heat some sauerkraut (I like to sauté it). Add some vegan cheese and allow to melt. Vegan butter your rye bread and toast to golden. Assembled sandwich with corned no-beef, sauerkraut with vegan cheese, and your favorite Reuben dressing. I make mine with a combination of vegan mayo, ketchup, and sweet relish.
(pardon the non-excellent food photography – I was too excited about eating)
*This is an Amazon affiliate link. To buy without the link, just search Butler Soy Curls on Amazon.