Thursday, July 05, 2012

Rhode Island Weenies Vegan Style

My girlfriend’s family grew up in Rhode Island, enjoying Ocean State delicacies such as coffee milk and New York System Hot Wieners “all the way.” When her brother comes up from the south to visit, it is all about local memories…which entails visiting nostalgic RI hangouts and sampling all the quintessential classics.  What is traditional Rhode Island fare you ask?

I already knew about Del's Lemonade.  This is definitively my favorite frozen lemonade.  It was in the running to become the official drink of RI, but was beat out by coffee milk!

Last year, Nana introduced me to johhnycakes.  These are basically a thin cornmeal pancake. 

Stuffies are stuffed baked quahogs.  As a kid (long before the thought of being vegan entered my mind) I did try these.  The flavor is all about what is added to the stuffing and it would be pretty simple to make a vegan version of these.  The vegan crab cake recipes are good enough for me.

Next up, bakery pizza. Cold pizza strips…they don’t sound too appetizing, do they? There's something about the dough, olive oil, and fresh sauce that makes these babies work. Fortunately for us vegans, they usually don't bother with cheese.

For weeks before this year's visit, all I heard about was hot weenies or more specifically NY System Hot Wieners. These frankfurts are topped with spiced meat sauce, yellow mustard, chopped raw onion and a generous shake of celery salt. The spiced meat is not to be confused with chili. There are no tomatoes, peppers or other chili fixings involved.

My girlfriend’s mom told me there's something about the onion, it just stays with you. Someone else fondly talked about how they hit your stomach like a lead weight. “They don’t call them ‘gaggers’ or ‘belly busters’ for nothin’, ya know.” It all made me chuckle a little.

The family bought NY System sauce spice packs for her brother so he wouldn't miss these while he was back down south. Looking at the envelopes and reading the directions made us think that we could veganize this local fav.

We started with vegan burger crumbles and the spice mix. It called for significantly more oil than I was willing to add, so we cut down quite a bit and then added some vegan beef bouillon dissolved in a ½ cup of water to thin it out while adding authentic flavor. We simmered and stirred, and after about an hour we were good to go.

We topped tofu pups with the spiced crumbles, raw onion, mustard and celery salt…“all the way” as they’re ordered up in Olneyville. The verdict? I dig them! A couple of our not-so-vegan friends saw the appealing pics on facebook and couldn't wait to try them. Now we are having a vegan weenie party at their house this weekend.

If you want to try making these on your own, there are tons of recipes for the RI weenie sauce online. They are all very similar with chili powder and a mix of spices. You could always order the spice packs direct from Olneyville NY System Wieners if you want to start at the source.

This veganzied version is certainly easier on your stomach and heart.