Anatomy of a Sandwich: To’ Boy

First off, apologies for the nearly week-long delay in posts. The past week was filled with moving boxes from Point A to Point B, then racing back to Point A to spend seven hours cleaning, then racing back to Point B to get enough unpacked so that I wouldn’t be living purely out of suitcases, then back to Point A to say goodbye to some very important people who are forgoing Point A and Point B and are, in fact, moving away from these Points completely. So of course, I had to return to Point B, my adopted home, to cry.

The traditional Po’ boy is very simple: A cut of baguette-like Louisiana French bread is layered with fried seafood or some kind of roasted meat. Lettuce, tomato, mayo, and possibly onions and pickles are added. Nothing crazy, right? It’s a sandwich like most sandwiches in that includes meat, toppings, and is sandwiched between preferably good quality bread. But like many sandwiches, it has earned a vaulted place among sandwiches. We have New Orleans to thank.

According to the Wikipedia entry, Po’ boy shops are the most basic of restaurants, the very simplest being a counter in which the sandwiches are wrapped and sold with little to no cooking done on the premises. Things progress from there, with the sandwiches being prepared and served in establishments of both low and high calibers. Once fancy restaurants started picking up the beloved dish, it was only a matter of time before it spread to other regions, only this time the trickle was downward, from high to low, instead of from counter and gas station upward. So it is with regional wonders: What is a significant part of one community is a novelty item in another community.

To me, you can’t have a Po’ boy without the pickles and the French bread, but when it comes to the meat filling, the options are a bit more open. When I was thinking of trying a vegan Po’ boy recipe, I considered several ideas for the filling, but I settled on tofu, as it takes to a fried cornmeal breading extremely well, while retaining a tender internal flakiness not unlike catfish. I took a few cues from Veganomicon‘s “Chile and Lime Cornmeal Crusted Tofu” but this was mostly riffing with the items I had on hand. I like my To’ Boy on the spicier side, but play around with the proportions of your spices so that you find a good balance for you.

Also, this sandwich ends up being a bit tall, so prepare your mouth for large bites.

To’ Boy

– 1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced width-wise in 1/2 inch strips
– 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
– 1 cup ground cornmeal
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp chili powder
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 to 1 tsp lime juice
– Oil for frying
– Vegan mayo
– Sliced pickles – We used Klausen’s “Hearty Garlic” but any good sandwich pickle will do
– 1 baguette or hard loaf of French bread, cut into thirds, then halved
– Uncle Fester’s Hot Pepper Spread – Optional, but we used it as an added sauce on the sandwich and it worked great, not too hot, a little sweet. If you want something a bit more standard, opt for a simple tomato or marinara sauce.

Prepare the tofu
– In a wide, shallow bowl, mix cornmeal with baking powder, lime juice, and spices. Set aside.
– Dip each tofu slice into the non-dairy milk, then dredge through the cornmeal mixture, coating each side evenly. Coated pieces can be set aside.
– Fry your tofu until each side is golden brown. Allow fried tofu slices to cool and drain.

Assemble your To’ Boy
– On each third of baguette, slather one side with vegan mayo, then layer: Pickles on the bottom, tofu slices, sauce (if using). Add some lettuce for added green value. Close up your sandwich and enjoy!

(Tofu adapted from “Chile and Lime Cornmeal Crusted Tofu” from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

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