Before Norman Brinker took over Chili's, he was the founder of Bennigan's, an Irish-inspired restaurant and pub. They serve American food with an Irish twist. Some of the most popular end enduring menu items have been the Monte Cristo and Broccoli Bites.
The company was later abandoned by Brinker for greener pastures. Pillsbury, the original owners, passed the restaurant chain onto other conglomerations, among them a huge liquor distributor. Over the years, the company has degraded due in part to a lack of rolling with the times and following trends. Basically they remained stagnant in a fluid restaurant environment. The company declared bankruptcy in July 2008 and wound up closing hundreds of stores. Among the only remaining stores that stayed open were franchise-owned ones. In October 2008, the dregs of the parent company, Steak and Ale, was bought up and the new owners are now trying to turn the tides and revamp Bennigan's image, food and the establishments themselves.
I was a server and bartender at Bennigan's for about a year in the early 2000's because hubby was laid off, but the mortgage company still insisted on their monthly payments. You could tell that things were forced and apathetic for the company, even though it was a new store I was hired for.
As for the food, the Monte Cristo was the signature dish, if you don't count the double burger that had a knife sticking out of it in an effort to hold the monstrosity upright. The Monte Cristo is a three-layered sandwich of ham, cheese and turkey, coated in an egg batter and deep fried. Now I am not exactly sure who looked at a sandwich and thought it would be a good idea to deep fry it, but then I am often confounded at the ludicrous things people choose to deep fry, including a stick of butter. Why?
However, I am not here to ask 'why?' just here to make the food. As anyone knows who has tried to recreate deep fried egg batters, it is not an easy endeavor. And since I figure there might be someone who does NOT choose to deep-fry their sandwich, I have offered a grilled version of it. Not the same, but not bad either...and not as bad for you. The batter is made with tofu and once a light dusting of flour is on the battered sandwich, the batter does not dissolve in the hot oil.
Broccoli Bites is one of those appetizers that I served a lot of, but one that isn't even vegetarian, with the inclusion of bacon bits. I omitted the bacon bits completely, but if you'd like to add some vegan tvp bacon bits or crumbled Fakin Bakin or something like that, the option is there. The broccoli, once pulsed fine in a food processor, is mixed with finely grated vegan cheese and formed into balls. The balls are then frozen to help them stay together during frying. They are coated in milk-flour-bread crumbs and fried. Baking is an option also. The balls flatten a bit with this process, but the broccoli cooks more and they are still crispy and golden.
Yup, more brewskie is recommended here and perhaps a strong stomach if you dare to try the Monte Cristo as it was originally intended to be eaten by the good folks at Bennigan's.
|Monte Cristo - grilled|