“Dine and wine, but not till nine”
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It’s really no surprise Taco’s career started in musical theatre in Germany. It is somewhat a surprise that any record company A&R person in the ’80s thought “Hey, let’s sign this guy & release a vaguely new wave synth-pop album of standards from the ’30s & ’40s.” It’s not a good album, and I’m very lenient on my silly pop concepts and fully embrace odd cover versions. The theme song here is the “big hit” and the cheesy video got Taco plenty of MTV airtime. Perhaps that’s the reason for albums like this from the early music video days. Labels needed content that would attract viewers who would buy singles and albums. An overly coiffed German in a tuxedo performing an Irving Berlin standard in a Busby Berkley production number was sure to get on MTV. For better or worse, the plan worked. “Puttin’ On The Ritz” became a cheesy synth-pop One-Hit Wonder. The album After Eight got to #23 on the Billboard Charts. And a Taco became the inspiration for poutine.
As someone who grew up Canada adjacent, I know this is technically not poutine. Poutine is a dish originating in Quebec, Canada consisting of thick-cut twice-fried fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Over the years, that basic blueprint has morphed into myriad variations, many of which are meat-driven and bear little resemblance to the original thesis. This is one of those recipes, but plant-based.
POUTINE ON THE RITZ
Buffalo chickwheat, twice-fried fries, Buffalo sauce, and mozzarella
Makes 2 servings
2 chickwheat cutlets, shredded (see recipe below)
Buffalo spice (see recipe below)
Buffalo sauce (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 medium russet potatoes
2 quarts of vegetable oil (for frying)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Buffalo spice
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces of low moisture mozzarella (dairy or vegan), torn into bite-sized pieces (or 6 ounces of cheese curds)
Start by making the Buffalo spice and Buffalo sauce and set it aside. Then make the fry seasoning by combining the salt, Buffalo spice, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Scrub the potatoes well, then cut into 1/4″ thick sticks. Dry thoroughly with paper towels and leave them sitting on paper towels to allow the surface of the potatoes to dry out for about 30 minutes.
While the potatoes are drying, take the chickwheat shreds and toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of Buffalo spice in a medium bowl. Toss to completely coat the shreds in the spice. Set aside.
Add 1 1/2″ of vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot and heat to 330°F. Line 2 wire racks with 2 layers of paper towels each. Fry the potatoes in batches until a light tan color and the edges are just starting to brown. Transfer the fried chips to one prepared rack to drain.
When all of the potatoes have been fried once, increase the heat of the oil to 375°F.
While the oil is coming up to temperature, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and fry the marinated chickwheat until crispy. Finish by adding a couple of tablespoons of Buffalo sauce to the pan and toss to coat the chickwheat. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Fry the potatoes a second time until they are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the seasoned salt mix.
To serve, take 1/4 of the fries and place them on a plate. Top with 1/4 of the mozzarella and 1/4 of the chickwheat. Layer another 1/4 each of the fries, mozzarella, and chickwheat. Finish with a healthy drizzle of the Buffalo sauce. Repeat for the second plate.
Makes 4 cutlets
1 cup cooked chickpeas (cold, don’t use warm)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon MSG (or more kosher salt if you do not have MSG)
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup vital wheat gluten
Blend everything up to cider vinegar in a food processor until completely smooth. Combine with vital wheat gluten in a bowl, mixing completely, and let rest for 30 minutes.
Take the rested dough ball and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is warm, stretchy, and smooth.
Divide the dough into four pieces and form into the shape of a cutlet. Wrap each cutlet individually loosely in foil making a packet. Place the packets in a steamer basket, cover the pot with a lid, and steam for 50 minutes. Once steamed, remove from the basket and place the packets on a cooling rack for five minutes. Unwrap the cutlets and return to the cooling rack to cool completely. Place in an airtight container and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Makes about a cup
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a spoon or your fingers to combine. Set aside.
Makes about a 1/2 cup
1/4 cup cayenne hot sauce (Frank’s, Red Devil, Crystal, etc.)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Buffalo spice
1/4 cup butter or vegan butter or refined coconut oil
Place everything but the butter in a medium saucepan. Gently heat to a simmer. Add the butter and whisk until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.