Mac’n’Yease: An Attempt at the Plum Bistro Classic
In early August, I had my first experience of Plum, the fabulous Seattle vegan restaurant. I had never heard of Plum until some Amazon browsing brought me to their new cookbook. I was so excited about the look of the cookbook and the food that I bought the cookbook before ever visiting the restaurant. Now having eaten at Plum and cooked from the book, I can fully vouch for both.
Anyone who knows Plum also knows their classic dish: Mac’n’Yease (a vegan macaroni and cheese). I am not one of these in-the-know folks, but luckily I had my friend LJ there to fill me in on its infamy. In fact, it’s such a well-known Plum specialty that they don’t even give away the recipe in the cookbook…which led to this weekend’s culinary adventure. LJ and I, who had brainstormed the recipe together, made it as a special treat for our double-header movie night. But I’m a Cheerleader and D.E.B.S with Mac’n’Yease – paradise!
To try to replicate the Mac’n’Yease, we focused on three foundations: method of cooking (pan seared), spices and flavours (thyme, oregano, coriander, white pepper), and base. The flavours bit was the most fun: four of us at the dinner table brainstormed flavours in the restaurant as we were splitting the dish. Hélène was super helpful in negative flavour identification: she helped us eliminate a few ideas (like tarragon) because she dislikes the flavours so much she said she would have tasted them for sure!
Having the Plum cookbook was hugely helpful for the base element: because this is a restaurant cookbook, many of the recipes rely on bases that the restaurant clearly prepares in advance and uses in many of their recipes. One of these bases was savoury cream, an emulsion of non-dairy milk and oil, thickened/curdled with apple cider vinegar. Its consistency was perfect in our replication, even if we can never verify the ‘true’ Mac’n’Yease method.
Regardless of whether or not you know the original, this vegan mac is a lovely dish that’s equal parts interesting flavours and textures, and plain old comfort food.
Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Based on Plum Bistro’s Mac’n’Yease
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (we used almond)
1 cup oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Pour the milk into a blender or food processor. With the mixture running, slowly pour in the oil so it emulsifies. Once combined, pour mixture into a bowl, stir in the apple cider vinegar and let sit. The mixture will thicken slightly. Mix in the minced garlic and set aside. If the mixture starts to separate, whisk again to recombine.
1/2 white onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 package (~8 oz) soft tofu
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
8-10 white peppercorns, crushed into a fine powder
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Puree the onion and garlic in a food processor until the pieces are quite small. Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a pan on medium heat and add pureed mixture once the oil is hot. Watch carefully and stir often – the onion pieces should soften but not brown. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients and taste. The flavour should be strong (to compensate for the addition of the savoury cream) but the balance should be to your taste.
Boil 1 1/2 cups of macaroni, allowing the pasta to cook through. Strain, then transfer to a bowl. Combine tofu mixture, macaroni, and 1/2 to 1 cup of savoury cream. Heat the largest pan you have on medium-high heat and when drops of water spit and evaporate in the pan, pour the entire macaroni and cheese mixture in, spreading it out in the pan to maximize surface area. Do not stir! Every couple of minutes, check a small section with a spatula – once the macaroni has seared on the bottom and become quite brown without burning, the dish is ready. Use a hard spatula to remove the pasta from the pan to preserve the delicious browned bits.