Picture this: it’s 1986. It’s Friday night, or some might call it Saturday morning. Your hair has depuffed, but that doesn’t stop you from singing along to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” blasting on the radio. Your (sober) friend is driving you from the bar. She is annoyed at your slurred singing and you are mad that she did not memorize the words to every Madonna song. Neither of you are ready to go home. Oh, and you are both hungry.
What’s a couple of friends to do?
Well, you go to the diner and order a big plate of disco fries, of course.
Diners are staples in New Jersey culture. They are appropriate for almost any occasion.
You woke up at 5am and want to take your grandpa out of breakfast? Diner.
You just got engaged and want to tell your parents the news over a meal? Diner.
And, perhaps most notably, need some proper hangover food? Diner.
The diner comes with its food essentials, including the disco fries, named, of course, after their great dancing skills.*
Disco fries are kind of like New Jersey poutine (or so I’ve been told as I’ve never had poutine). Simply put, they are French fries covered in gravy and melty cheese. This is a vegan version using an umami packed mushroom gravy and a stretchy sunflower white cheese.
So, pretend it’s 2am, the bartender’s last call was 20 minutes ago, and you are hungry. Just thinking about it will make you crave some disco fries. Trust me.
Total Time: 35-40 minutes
4 medium or 2 large Idaho potatoes
2 Tablespoons neutral oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive juice (from the olive jar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch each ground mustard, ground garlic, and ground onion
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon mushroom powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
A few pinches black pepper
1/4 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment or a nonstick silicone lining.
- Chop up the potatoes into sticks (you can leave the peels on or peel them — it’s up to you). Place fries on the tray in a single layer and spread oil over the fries as evenly as possible. Bake them for 30-35 minutes, depending on thickness of the fries.
- While the fries are cooking, make the cheese and gravy. For the cheese, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Preheat a small pot (I used a four quart Dutch oven, but a smaller pot would work as well) over medium heat. Add the cheese and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. The tapioca starch will work its magic and make the cheese stretchy! When the cheese becomes stretchy, remove from the heat.
- To make the gravy, heat a small pot over medium heat (I wiped down the pot I used for the cheese and used that. Just don’t burn yourself!) and sauté the garlic and onion powders (Yes, you can sauté dried spices! It deepens the flavor.) in the oil for about 5 minutes. Stir periodically to ensure it doesn’t burn.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the vegetable broth and the flour in a separate bowl.
- Add the thyme, mushroom powder, sage, salt, and pepper to the pot and stir to incorporate. Add the vegetable broth/flour mixture, wine, and nutritional yeast. Continue to simmer until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Once the fries are nicely browned, remove them from the oven and salt and pepper them to taste. Keep in mind that the gravy and cheese are both salty.
- To plate, pile fries onto a plate and slather with gravy and cheese. Serve warm and sing a Madonna song.
* Do not leave disco fries alone for too long, or they will invite all of their friend over and start a discotheque in your living room. Unless, that is, you want to see some vegetables get down.
**You can find mushroom powder at trader joe’s, whole foods, or online. If you can’t find ant mushroom powder, try adding a tablespoon of soy sauce or miso for some umami.