Vegetarian Reuben

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Did you once tell me that you make a vegetarian reuben?

from Daniel Larkin
to me 

Funny enough, I cut tofu this morning and started marinating it for ruebens tonight. Jenny’s parents are coming over for it!

I use my homemade kraut, so it’s basically the shit.  Plus, the marinade mimics slow smoked, salty beef fairly well.  It’s obviously a different flavor from a standard cornedbeef reuben, but I like the tofu just as much as any cornedbeef rueben I’ve ever had.

The process is pretty simple.  I cut the tofu into thin slices, maybe about 1/4-inch thick, and marinate it in my special sauce (ewww) for at least 4 hours.  My sauce is **roughly** a mix of 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part worcestershire sauce, and a few slashes of liquid hickory smoke.  Then I dilute that all with water until I’m comfortable that it’s flavorful, but not overly salty.

When it’s done marinating, I cook the tofu in safflower oil on high heat until it’s brown on both sides.  I’ve found that this gives the best texture.  High heat and safflower oil.

Then I just stack it on some grilled pumpernickel bread with a heaping pile of warm sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing (you’ll probably do Russian dressing).

Yum.  I’m glad I was already planning on having these tonight, otherwise I would be scrambling to make it happen after writing this.

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

That sounds great! I’ve been craving a Reuben, and we’re in the countdown to Orthodox Lent, so we just waved a 56 day goodbye to meat on Sunday. On top of that, I have a big bag of kraut in the fridge…I may hit up Whole Foods for some tofu in a bit.


[Update: Turns out we already posted about this in October. We’re idiots!]



from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

It’s downright shameful how long it’s been since we swapped recipes – picture texts and Facebook bragging not withstanding.  I’ve been on a huge homebrewing and comfort food tear lately, and I’m finally at a breathing point where I can record it all.

So it’s officially soup season, and this is the first year I really feel like I’ve embraced the bowl and spoon with any modicum of success.  I’ve already described my chicken soup in an earlier email, but I’ve got two more for you – a beef and barley stew that I randomly threw together and a vegetarian butternut squash and pear soup that I used to make at the Red Rooster Diner in Nashville.  Both are astonishingly good, and both will warm you to your cockles this winter.  Yeah, I said cockles.

First off, the Beef and Barley Stew.  It’s super simple, and the prep work can be done in 30 minutes or less.  The stew itself should cook for at least four hours, but I like to prep it in the morning and let it go all day.  Peasant food was the original, “set it and forget it” theme in the kitchen.

  • 1 qt chicken stock – homemade if you’ve got it, it makes ALL the difference in the world.
  • 1 lb lean sirloin steak, diced into small cubes, salted and peppered and spread across a pan to reach room temperature.
  • 1/2 stick butter.
  • 1 pack beef bones (I recently noticed that most grocery stores sell large bone scraps for stewing, usually in packs of about a pound.  A few of these in the pot with everything else transforms your chicken stock into a mighty warrior of deliciousness.  And they’re dirt cheap.)
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 2 ribs of celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic diced
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomato with liquids
  • 1 fistful of pearl barley
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 bottle Guinness Stout

You can see where this is going, and I probably don’t even need to continue.  But here it is anyway.

In an oven safe pot with a good fitting lid, brown the beef cubes in the butter on high heat – set aside.

Sauté celery, onions, carrots, and garlic on remaining butter and fat for a few minutes.

Toss the beef back into the pan, and add the stock, Guinness, tomatoes, beef bones, red pepper flakes, and barley and bring to a boil.

Toss the simmering mix into the oven at 220º and let it go as long as you can – four hours minimum.  Remove the beef bones when it’s done, and salt and pepper to taste.

This is such a well rounded stew, nutritiously and flavor-wise.  I recently took a Thermos of it to Ramsey Cascade Falls in the Smoky Mountains, and it was almost as good as the view.

OK, to the second soup, Butternut Squash and Pear.  I used to make this at a little diner on the West Side of Nashville, and it always stuck with me as a favorite.  Easy to make, and it can be ready in under an hour.  I can’t believe it took me this long to make it again.

  • 1 medium butternut squash peeled, cored and diced into approximately 1-inch squares.
  • 4 pears, peeled, cored, and diced small.
  • 2 small onions diced
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, approximately 6-inches, whole.
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Sugar or honey to taste – if the pears are good, you shouldn’t need much
  • Heavy cream – less than a cup

The rest is simple.

Sauté the squash, pears and onions in butter until the onion is translucent.

Add stock, rosemary and cinnamon and simmer for 20 minutes, or until squash is done/mashable.

Remove the rosemary sprig and run that shit through a blender or food processor until it’s smooth.

Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.  You’re looking for more balanced comfort than sweet.

(An optional step here is to simmer it again on low heat for another 30 minutes or so, but it’s not 100% necessary)

Finish off with a touch of cream to round it out.

I like to serve this garnished with a dollop of sour cream on top, just to contrast the slight sweetness of the squash and pear.  Jenny and I ate this on Christmas Eve alongside my sad attempt at a rustic bread loaf.  It was delicious, though, and the subtle fruit, squash and rosemary flavors are all intrinsically winter for me.  mmmm…..

Enjoy, hombre.

Cincinnati Chili!

from: Daniel Larkin
to: jamey 10:41 AM

I don’t know if you’re aware of my family’s obsession with Skyline Chili, the Cincinnati purveyors of heaven in soupy meat form.  They aren’t located in Tennessee, and as far as I know, the closest location to me is in Louisville, Kentucky.  Still, it’s worth the drive.

For all of their unwillingness to sprawl, two stores somehow ended up in South Florida.  When the Florida Marlins were created in 1993, my father and I would make regular trips to watch them get their asses beat up and down the inaugural calendar.  Our routine usually involved dinner at Skyline Chili on University Drive on the way out of town.  This was sometimes spiced up with other fun activities like flattening the tires of my sister’s fiance, who my father had nicknamed “shithead.”  Skyline Chili is a fantastic enough establishment by itself to constitute life-long loyalty, but the fact that it was such an integral part of that routine with my dad made it almost mythical.  (I now sport their logo tattooed on my left calf.)

Cincinnati Chili is unlike any other type of chili out there in that is has a sweet, cinnamon and chocolate flavor.  There are no chunks, but it’s a fairly loose mix of meat and tomato base.  Oh, it’s a beautiful thing.

Anyway, when you live in Tennessee, or Pennsylvania for that matter, you really only have three options for Skyline Chili.

1.) Drive to the nearest Skyline Chili location.  This will always be the best option.

2.) Search out the canned stuff from a grocery store.  I have mixed feelings on this, but it’ll do in a pinch.

3.) Make your own.  This was never a realistic choice, until about a year and a half ago.

It all started because I wanted Jenny to know the true gloriousness of Cincinnati chili, but she’s vegetarian.  The recipe, therefore, is for a vegetarian version of the chili – using TVP (texturized vegetable protein) instead of beef.  The flavor is still pretty spot on, but you can easily revert it back to ground beef if you want.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  • One 12 oz. bag of Morningstar Crumble, or whatever type of TVP you prefer.  (The 12-oz. bags contain no fat drippings, so they roughly equal one pound of ground beef – browned and drained.
  • 1/2 Medium sized onion – chopped.
  • One clove garlic – minced.
  • One tablespoon each of brown sugar, chili powder and cider vinegar.
  • One teaspoon each of cinnamon and cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • One (15 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • Two small pieces of dark chocolate – the snack size.  (We always have Dove Dark squares on hand)

1.) First, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.  (This may be considered sacrilegious in some circles that believe the onion should be raw and added on top of the finished product.  In my opinion, though, the flavor requires cooked onion, and so powder would be a necessary substitute.  Skyline has no discernible chunks of garlic or onion, so I assume they use powder for both, but I prefer to use fresh when possible.  Plus, I HATE raw onion.)
2.) Next, toss in your meat (either frozen TVP or browned and drained beef)
3.) Mix in the liquids – tomato sauce, water and vinegar.
4.) Stir in the brown sugar, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon, cumin and salt.
5.) When the mix is nice and warm, reduce the heat and toss in the chocolate squares and stir until they’ve completely melted in and are mixed.
6.) Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened.

It may not smell like a final product while you’re cooking it, but it’ll all come together in the end.  I like to step outside for a few minutes to reset my olfactory senses while cooking this.  When I step back into the house, I get hit with a wall of Skyline Chili.

Now there are a few different ways to serve this, but there is one constant – the cheese.  Buy a block of good sharp cheddar and shred it as finely as you can, making the shreds as long as possible.  The goal is to have a heaping pile of room temperature cheese whose sharpness perfectly contrasts the sweet, cinnamon chili.  When you’re piling on the cheese, remember to put on an obscene amount, and then add some more.

To serve it on a hotdog, chose a neutral tasting dog that isn’t too big.  You want the chili to shine.  Lay the dog on a steamed bun laced with cheap yellow mustard, smother it with chili and toss on a grotesque amount of cheese.  This is where the raw onion would go too, if you were so inclined.

The other way to serve this is on a plate of spaghetti.  Blanket a plate of noodles with chili, and then add the obligatory heart attack of cheese.  When you do it this way, you need to supply everyone with a side bowl of oyster crackers for texture and extra salt.  Raw onions can also be added.  Blech!

Here’s a few photos on proper presentation and possible side effects.

Tofu Reuben

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey bennett
show details 10:16 AM (1 minute ago)

I’m not going to lie to you, Jamey, last night I made the best tofu reuben I’ve ever eaten.  This normally wouldn’t sound like a big deal except that an all vegetarian restaurant in Knoxville named Veg-O-Rama used to make a tofureuben that would knock my socks off – that is until they closed shop.  Anyway, I think I beat theirreuben!

Another reason this is big news is that after living with a vegetarian for 7 years, I think I finally figured out how to make good tofu.  I’m sure you’ve cooked enough tofu to know that it’s a blank slate of a food item texturally and flavor-wise, and it requires some seemingly magical skill to make progress on either front.

Marinating is obviously necessary, but there’s always the problem of sloppy loose texture – even when you use “extra firm” curd.  There is one brand of local organic tofu we buy sometimes that’s thick as a steak, but what’s good for the texture is bad for flavor, since the denseness impedes rapid marination.  (And who wants to marinate tofu all day?)

So here’s what I learned.

First, I bought the generic organic tofu – extra firm, but still squishy in regards to the final product.  I cut the tofu into about 1/4 inch slices and pressed them with paper towels to dry them out as much as possible.  (Nothing new here, this is standard prep work for tofu)  Then I laid them flat in a large ziplock baggie and filled it with a rough 1:1 mix of water and soy sauce with a splash of worchestire sauce and liquid hickory smoke.  I set that in the fridge and let it go for a few hours while I worked.

Now, the biggest thing I did differently than any other time was that I cooked the tofu slices for about 10 minutes on very high heat with a small amount of safflower oil.  I’ve never used “high heat” oil for tofu before, and so I’ve never been able to utilize the temperatures needed to toughen and crisp the slices.  It was beautiful!  Golden brown slices that didn’t just dissolve in my mouth.  There’s no faking corned beef, but this was damn good.

I placed a few stacks of the tofu slices on some pumpernickel bread smeared with Harvest Ground mustard and Thousand Island Dressing, and topped it all with a good swiss cheese and my homemade sauerkraut (left over from Oktoberfest).  I broiled the sandwich in the toaster, and viola!

In all honesty, I think the sauerkraut made the sandwich what it was, but the marinated tofu cooked to perfection was what I’ve been missing all these years.  It was fantastic, and I’d even wager that my father would like it.

Sauerkraut at Home

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

So my sauerkraut was a hit at my wedding this past weekend, even among the non-kraut-enthusiasts. I used a combination of my priest’s “50 lbs. every autumn” recipe with some techniques I found online. Basically, I used an empty sanitized brew bucket, a growler filled with water (for weight), a small plate, a knife, a kitchen scale, a rolling pin (to smash the cabbage), about 20 lbs. of cabbage, and lots of salt.

Simply put: I’d slice the cabbage (getting rid of the core) into pretty thin strips. Using my kitchen scale, I’d slice and slice until I had 3-1/2 lbs. I’d throw that into the bucket with 1 tbs. non-iodized salt. I kept this up until I chopped it all up. Every now and then, I’d stir the mix and smash it together. My arms were pretty tired by the end. I had some serious juice-age in the bucket, too.

I put the plate on top of the cabbage and pushed down until all of the cabbage was submerged in the brine, and I set the growler on top of the plate to hold it down. I dropped the bucket off in my basement and covered it with a towel. I checked it every day for a little over two weeks, and skimmed any film off the top that developed. Next time I do it, I’m going to give it another week.

The caterer cooked it, and served it up with pieces of kielbasa. It was awesome.

How’d you do your kraut? I saw you linked this about it, but I was wondering how closely you followed it.


from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey W. Bennett

I followed that recipe to a T, and it turned out amazing!  I undershot my cabbage weight a little, though, so my spices were a bit more than they were supposed to be.  But that was fine, since the caraway seed, mustard seed, and juniper are all spices that go well with kraut-esque food anyway.

The only thing I’ll do differently is that when I periodically top off the cans to replenish evaporated water, I won’t used salt water.  I realized that the water may be evaporating, but the salt was being left behind, so I was really just salting the hell out of an already salty foodstuff.

But again, the recipe was bangin!  I have to make a bunch this week for our Oktoberfest party in a few weeks.

Vegetarian Chicken Soft Tacos [Bonus: Pork Tacos]

[Note: This is the post that planted the seed that led to Two Dudes Foods.]

From: Daniel Larkin
Date: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM
Today I share the secret
To: “jamey w. bennett”

After years of blindly making this recipe, I finally measured the ingredients for my chicken soft tacos.  I figured you should be the first person I share the recipe with.  If anyone can give me constructive feedback on my taco recipe, it’s you – the taco guy.  I make these veggie-style, using Quorn Naked Cutlets.  I’ve never made them with real chicken, but if I had to, I would first try using left-over chicken (fully cooked) shredded as thinly as possible.

I chop the Naked Cutlets into thin strips, lay them flat, and chop again until the pieces resemble shredded chicken like you expect to see in Mexican restaurant.  If you can find the Naked Cutlets in Philly, I would recommend this as a meat-free meal.  I know you could use a little taco in your meat fasting days.

So here it goes.

  • 6 oz chicken (this translates into 3 Naked Cutlets) finely shredded as mentioned above.
  • 8 oz can of no salt added tomato sauce
  • 4 oz orange juice.  (I measure this in the empty 8 oz tomato sauce can)
  • 4 oz water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Squirt of lemon or lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro

Jenny’s not a fan of overly overly-spicy foods, so these are super low on the heat scale.  But you can heat them up with cayenne and red pepper flakes, or by tossing a few Jalapenos in the marinade.

Marinate the chicken in all ingredients (except cilantro and lemon/lime juice) for at least 30 minutes.

Bring the mix to a boil, and simmer covered on low for 5 or 10 minutes.
Remove lid and simmer for another 15 minutes – until sauce has thickened or soaked into meat.

Toss in some chopped cilantro and squeeze in lemon/lime juice, and viola!

Let me know how it goes.  I would love the feedback.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin


I am eating the most amazing pulled pork tacos ever. I still haven’t made your faux chicken tacos, but you inspired this. I sauteed onions and jalapenos in olive oil, added precooked pulled pork and cilantro, then poured 100% mango-orange juice over it and cooked it until excess liquid was gone. Added to whole wheat tortillas (which I briefly browned in a skillet), added sour cream, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and homemade salsa. INCREDIBLE!