The “V” Word continues its celebration of VeganMoFo, the month of vegan food, with its theme, “If TV Celebrity Chefs Went Vegan.” Today our guest is Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman. If you will indulge me, I really need Ree to introduce herself to you. I’ll be over in the corner trying not to let my eyes roll all the way back in my head. I do, however, reserve the right to inject my comments if I feel I’ll burst otherwise.
“My name is Ree. Some folks know me as The Pioneer Woman. I’m a desperate housewife. I live in the country. I channel Lucille Ball, Sylvia Plath, and Ethel Merman. Welcome to my frontier!”
(She channels Lucy, Sylvia Plath and Ethel Merman? What the hell does that mean? She’s a suicidal screwball who sings “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” while her head is in the oven???? Sometimes she swaps out Sylvia Plath with Vivien Leigh…because they are sooo interchangeable. Well, fiddle-dee-dee.)
“I’m a middle child who grew up on the seventh fairway of a golf course in a corporate town. After high school, I thought my horizons needed broadening. I attended college in California, then got a job and wore black pumps to work every day. I ate sushi and treated myself to pedicures on a semi-regular basis. I even kissed James Garner in an elevator once. I loved him deeply, despite the fact that our relationship only lasted 47 seconds.”
(And I thought my love for Richard Gere bordered on the pathological. I feel much better now.)
“Years ago, after living and working there for several years, I left the great city of Los Angeles . Fleeing a dead-end relationship with a surfer, I planned a much-needed pit stop in my Oklahoma hometown before beginning my new life in Chicago. It was during my stay at home that I met Marlboro Man, a mysterious, Wrangler-wearing cowboy with steely, icy-blue eyes and a muscular, work-honed body who made me forget myself.”
(Really? Marlboro Man? Besides the guy in the cigarette commercials, isn’t that the name of a serial killer? Oh wait, that’s Buffalo Bill. Same difference. Keep reading IF you still have your appetite.)
|“Look into my icy steel-blue eyes and you’ll want to cook for me.”|
“A strict vegetarian, I fell hard and fast, and before I knew it, I’d canceled my Chicago plans, married the cowboy, and was bearing his children and chasing cows off my porch on his cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea how I’d wound up there, but I knew it was exactly where I belonged. Four children and thirteen years later, I still don’t know what I’m doing here. But I do know this: I’m exactly where I belong.”
(By “strict vegetarian,” she means she loved sushi. And who says “bearing his children” anymore? That sounds so biblical – she begat the fruit of his loins. I can hear Paul Anka singing “Having My Baby” in the background – if you don’t know the song, you’re too young. Go look it up!)
I first learned about Ree Drummond when I saw her book, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, in the bookstore. I read the jacket and was disheartened that someone who considered herself a “strict vegetarian” was now part of the exploitation and slaughter of cows and calves. Ree was first seen on TV when she beat Bobby Flay in a Thanksgiving dinner throwdown. Her blog is wildly popular and so is her Food Network show, Pioneer Woman. Rumor has it that Reese Witherspoon will be playing Ree in a movie about her life. Oh Reese, first the elephants, now this?
|If Reese had a cookbook, would it be called Reese’s Pieces?|
I’ve watched her show a couple of times (for research, of course) and I have to say, she irritates me to no end. Maybe it’s her voice that sounds scripted and fake no matter what she’s talking about. Maybe it’s watching her slave away in the kitchen so she can feed the men who are so busy doing the “real work” on the ranch.
Maybe it’s that it makes me sad to watch her 4 home-schooled children being taught that animals are commodities. I mean, they talk a lot about their love of beautiful animals (usually horses) and Ree’s web site is filled with gorgeous photography of the most amazing living (for now) beings.
But sadly, those animals are all about money and if there is any question about that, read this post by Ree’s husband, “Marlboro Man,” called The Cow-Calf Operation. It will teach you everything you never wanted to know about how to continuously breed the cows, when to remove the calves from their mothers and how to break it all down into what really matters: dollars and cents.
|Not a fan of Marlboro Man|
So how about Ree’s recipes? Well, they are simple, they look hearty and tasty and would certainly be crowd-pleasers, especially for meat-and-potatoes lovers. But there is nothing even remotely healthy about them. Seriously, people give Paula Deen a hard time? Well, her successor has arrived and her name is Ree (well, actually her name is Ann Marie; Ree is a nickname). I’m talking multiple sticks of butter PLUS heavy cream PLUS whole milk PLUS steak PLUS more butter and oil. My arteries are hardening just writing about it.
For this post, I thought I should stick with a classic so I chose to veganize Ree’s Chicken-Fried Steak and Creamy Mashed Potatoes with White Gravy from her “Home on the Range” episode. Back in the beginning of The “V” Word, I made “Chicken-Fried” Seitan Steaks but now I needed a gluten-free version. Ree’s recipe uses 5 1/2 cups of whole milk, 2 eggs, 1 cup of heavy cream, 8 oz. of cream cheese, 17 Tbs. of butter (take that, Paula!), 1/2 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of grease leftover from cooking the steaks.
My “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks and Creamy Mashed Potatoes with White Gravy uses 4 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk, no eggs, no cream, 2 Tbs. of non-dairy cream cheese, 2 Tbs. of vegan butter (which is optional) and 2 Tbs. of organic unrefined vegetable oil. So it’s a little lighter but believe me, it’s not missing any of the flavor.
The “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks are so amazing. Crispy breading on the outside and tender, juicy tofu on the inside.
The mashed potatoes are rich, creamy and decadent. You can make them even more creamy and indulgent if you want or you could lighten them up by omitting the cream cheese.
Honestly, I have never been a fan of white gravy but this was delicious as well. My gravy is smooth and luxurious, a perfect topping for this cowgirl grub.
I know this post is snarkier than my usual. Maybe I’m a bit jealous. After all, I was a city girl too who ended up transplanted to a place that’s way out of my element. Unlike Ree Drummond, I’m not declaring myself “The Woodstock Woman” and while I’m not sure what I’m doing here either, I’m not convinced that I’m “exactly where I belong.” Still, I’m not jumping on the free-range bandwagon and pricing chickens for my backyard.
Whatever. City or country, urban or ranch, you know you want this meal. And might I suggest, for your reading pleasure, that you visit The Vegan Feminist Agitator, a blog written by my friend, the incredible Marla Rose. Her take on The Pioneer Woman is the sinfully perfect dessert for this meal. Enjoy!
“Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steak with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and White Gravy
For the Creamy Mashed Potatoes:
Cooking oil spray or vegetable oil
2 -3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (about 12 small potatoes)
2 Tbs. vegan cream cheese
½ cup non-dairy cream or milk
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
3 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking oil (or grease it with an oiled piece of paper towel). Cut the potatoes into even chunks so they will all have the same cooking time. Put them into a large saucepan, fill with cold water, and add some Kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Uncover, lower the heat and let cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain the potatoes into a colander and return them to the hot pot. Mash the potatoes over low heat. Turn off the heat, add the cream cheese, cream or milk, spices and scallions and mix it well.
Transfer the potatoes to the oiled baking dish. Put a few drops of oil (or some pats of butter) on the top of the potatoes. This will help them brown. Bake until golden-brown, 20 – 30 minutes.
For the “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steak:
1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 Tbs. ground flaxseed
6 Tbs. warm water
2 cups chickpea flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
Mix the water with the flaxseed in a cup or small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes until it thickens. Put the milk into a shallow bowl. Add the thickened flaxseed to the milk and stir. In another shallow bowl or dish, combine the flour with the spices. Have a clean plate ready to receive the breaded tofu steaks.
Working with one slice of tofu at a time, dip it into the flour mixture. Turn to coat. Shake off any excess flour and dip the tofu into the milk/flaxseed mixture. Turn to coat. Finally, dip it back into the flour again and turn to coat. Place the breaded slice of tofu onto the clean plate. Repeat with the rest of the tofu.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook the tofu in batches. Don’t crowd the pan or the tofu will not get browned and crispy. You know the oil is hot enough when you sprinkle a bit of flour into the oil and it sizzles. Cook the tofu until it gets golden brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully flip the tofu steaks and cook the other side. The second side usually cooks faster than the first side. Transfer the tofu steaks to a baking sheet topped with a cooling rack or an oven-safe platter and put in the oven to keep warm while you make the rest of the meal.
For the White Gravy:
2 Tbs. oil or vegan butter
1/3 cup chickpea flour
3 cups non-dairy milk
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
½ tsp. Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
In the same skillet where you fried the tofu steaks, heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk for about a minute or two. You want the flour to cook so the gravy doesn’t taste like paste. The roux should be a golden color. Pour the milk into the pan, slowly, while whisking constantly. If you’re like me, you’ll have the milk in your right hand, then realize you can’t whisk with your left hand, and have to stop and switch hands. Whisk in the broth next. Add the salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the gravy is smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick, add more milk or broth. Taste for seasoning.
To serve: Serve the tofu steaks next to a side of mashed potatoes. Top both with the gravy. Have it with some salad 🙂
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.