How One Healthy Chef Got Her Meat-Loving Husband to Eat Vegan

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The Edgy Veg book
Photo: Robert Rose

Trying to get a carnivore to eat vegan isn’t easy. Just ask Candice Hutchings, the creator of The Edgy Veg, an irreverent blog and YouTube cooking series that’s now also a cookbook brimming with plant-based recipes for traditional comfort foods like fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, and New York-style cheesecake.

Every recipe had to get the thumb's up from Hutchings' non-vegan, foodie husband before it went in the book—and not every attempt at replicating his favorite foods was a success. “There were some recipes where he was like, 'No, no one will eat this.' The béarnaise was one of those. It took me three or four times to get it right,” says Hutchings about remaking the classic French butter-and-egg sauce without either butter or eggs.

 “There were some recipes where he was like, 'No, no one will eat this.' The béarnaise was one of those. It took me three or four times to get it right.”

Hutchings went vegan eight years ago when a naturopathic doctor suggested she cut out animal protein to improve her digestive and skin health. Her health improved but Hutchings still craved the foods she'd eaten growing up. "Eight years ago we didn't have the amazing products we have now. So I taught myself to cook," says Hutchings.

When she started dating her now-husband, who is of Syrian descent, she realized she had to veganize his childhood comfort foods, like fattoush and spiced chicken and rice, to get him to really fall in love with following a plant-based diet. (He's now vegan 90 percent of the time.)  Hutchings relied on a family recipe book she'd seen him cooking from in the early days of their relationship. "I was learning so much about him recreating the foods that his mother made for him. It brought us closer together," she says.

Want to try Hutching's carnivore-approved steak and béarnaise? Keep reading for the recipe.

Vegan Steak and Bearnaise Sauce
Photo: Brilynn Ferguson

Portobello steaks with béarnaise sauce

After spending weeks trying to come up with a recipe for a vegan steak using vital wheat gluten, Hutchings says she decided to look for something that already existed in nature that already had the "meaty" texture she was struggling to recreate. That's when she came up with using portobello mushrooms, which she could season and sear just like steak. “The more I stayed true to the original techniques and flavors, the more successful I was,” says Hutchings.

Serves 4

For the Béarnaise
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1 shallot, minced
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped and divided
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2/3 cup soft silken tofu, drained
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp black salt
1 sprig flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

For the marinade
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tamari
2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire
2 garlic cloves, minced

For the steaks
12 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for brushing
Chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

For the Béarnaise
1. In a small saucepan, melt vegan butter over medium-low heat. Set aside.

2. In another small saucepan, combine white wine vinegar, white wine, shallot, and half of the tarragon. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about two tablespoons. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a blender, discarding solids. Set aside saucepan.

3. Add nutritional yeast, tofu, and turmeric to blender. Blend on high until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add melted vegan butter through the hole in the lid until well incorporated. Season with black salt.

4. Transfer the mixture back to the small saucepan and heat over low heat, whisking vigorously and constantly, until mixture is thickened and resembles a traditional béarnaise sauce. Stir in the remaining chopped tarragon and parsley, and set aside to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

For the steaks
1. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, red wine, olive oil, tamari, vegan Worcestershire, and garlic, until well combined.

2. In a shallow bowl or a large resealable bag, pour marinade over mushroom caps. Marinate for two hours or overnight, flipping mushrooms halfway.

3. Meanwhile, prepare steak rub. In a small bowl or jar, combine paprika, oregano, coriander, mustard powder, cumin, sea salt, and pepper. Stir or shake to combine. Set aside.

4. Remove mushrooms from marinade, reserving marinade. Pat steak rub all over marinated mushrooms. Cook right away or pop them in the fridge for up to two hours if you want to prep dinner ahead of time.

5. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place mushroom caps, gill side up, on a prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 25 minutes, until tender.

6. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush mushroom caps with olive oil. Add three to four mushrooms, gill side up, to pan and spoon one teaspoon reserved marinade over each mushroom. Cook for two to three minutes on the first side, flip and cook for two to three minutes on the second side. Repeat this process two to three times, until there is minimal to no liquid left in the pan. Remove from heat and slice into half-inch slices. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

8. Arrange one-quarter of the sliced portobellos in a line in the center of each plate and drizzle with Béarnaise sauce. Garnish with tarragon, if desired.

Reprinted  from The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore Approved Recipes by Candice Hutchings and James Aita © 2017 All rights reserved.

For more comforting vegan recipes, try these recipes for a rich and creamy pasta or this anti-inflammatory soup.

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