Monday, November 16, 2009

shepherd's pie

The weekend has come and gone and, with the exception of a few glitches (including an in accessible lightbulb burnout), everything went smoothly...

By 2p on Saturday, I'd decided to go with the shepherd's pie. It was a rainy day, and seemed fitting for the late-evening meal. The filling of the pie would be root vegetables, mushrooms and homemade seitan in a deep, red wine sauce, and the whole thing would be topped with a puree of Yukon Gold potatoes and celery root, broiled in the oven until golden. The recipe, adapted from one found in Gourmet, was time-consuming, clocking in at over four hours start to finish, and dirtied nearly every dish, bowl and pot in my kitchen. But, oh, was it worth it. I'm not normally self-congratulatory, but this dish was incredible. The stew was rich and dense and aromatic... it was downright seductive. The celery root mixed with the potatoes added a brightness to the topping, and provided a contrasting note to depth of the vegetables and wine. When you find yourself with spoiled plans on a rainy Saturday, or nervously anticipating a few overnight guests, put in the time and give this a shot. It won't disappoint.

Shepherd's Pie

Recipe adapted from Gourmet

for the filling
olive oil
1.5 lbs seitan, sliced thin and patted dry
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2" thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium carrots, chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
4 medium parsnips, chopped
2 tbs thyme leaves
1 tbs rosemary, chopped
1 bottle red wine (I used Merlot, though something full-bodied is recommended)
3 tbs Earth Balance, softened
3 tbs flour
3.5 c hot vegetable stock
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley

for the topping
2.5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
4 tbs Earth Balance
1 c soy milk

Heat a moderate amount of oil in a large soup pot and brown the seitan in three batches, for 3 to 5 minutes, adding oil between each batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add leeks to the pot with some more oil and cook covered, with a 1/4 tsp of salt, for about 6 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook until golden and fragrant.

Add mushrooms and a 1/2 tsp of salt and cook, covered, until the mushrooms begin to give off liquid. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add carrots, parsnips, thyme, rosemary, and stir. Cook, covered, until vegetables are just tender. (About ten minutes.) Transfer to a bowl.

Add wine to deglaze the pot and boil until it's reduced to about 1 cup (10/15 minutes). While the wine is reducing, stir together the Earth Balance and flour to form a paste. Once the wine has reduced, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the EB/flour mixture, simmer, and stir occasionally for a few minutes until it all thickens. Add the vegetables and seitan, stir, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Then, remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

Almost done! While the stew simmers, peel and chop the potatoes and celery root. Boil them in a large pot until very tender. Reserve 1/2 c of the cooking water, and drain.

Bring the margarine and soy milk to a simmer in a pot until the margarine melts completely. Stir in the cooking liquid, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Remove from heat and mash potatoes and celery root into the mixture, until smooth and well-combined. Stir well.

FINISH! Preheat the broiler. Pour the stew into a large casserole dish or cast-iron skillet (I used the cast-iron). Top with the potato mixture and spread evenly. Broil for a few minutes, watching carefully so that it doesn't burn, until the top is golden and crispy.

Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

in waiting

It's early Saturday afternoon, and I have out-of-town guests arriving in six hours. This should send me into a flurry of whipping and roasting and chopping and general preparation, but instead, I'm sitting at my kitchen table, flipping through Gourmet (RIP) and feeling altogether uninspired.

Two things. First, I'm not used to cooking for more than two. At all. Tonight's dinner will be for five, and I'm the only vegetarian. So there's that pressure. There's also the pressure of having your good friends come see your new apartment for the first time, and wanting so badly to impress them with a carelessly sophisticated lifestyle (not the truth, which is instead slow-going, quiet, and a little reclusive). So I'm turning over menus in my head. Shepherd's Pie. Butternut squash soup. Brussels and fennel with roasted sweet potatoes. Is a stew or chili or cassoulet to boring? And is it too sloppy to serve if I haven't yet gotten my hands on nice, individual-sized crocks? I still haven't gone to the market; I need to pick up wine. Should I get more cognac so that we can make that hard cider cocktail? (Note to self: post on seasonal cocktails to come! We've come up with some good ones.) Plus, the whole apartment smells like bleach because I cleaned the bathroom this morning. And it's too cold to open the windows to air it out.

It's 12:34p. And that's where we stand. Can't wait to see how it all turns out?! Check in tomorrow. Or Monday. And wish me luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

jerusalem artichokes

This past Saturday, while picking up onions and potatoes from my favorite stand, I paused in front of a large wooden crate filled with small, knobby roots. The sign above the crate read: Jerusalem Artichokes.

image via Gourmet

Never havin
g heard of them, I was honestly confused; these roots looked more like skinny ginger than any artichoke I'd ever seen. So we asked the man behind the stand, and he explained that jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) are actually in the sunflower family, and are harvested at the end of the gigantic flower's life.

Raw, they are said to be similar to water chestnuts or jicama. I'm thinking of sauteeing them lightly with some shallots and serving alongside bitter greens and rice. Stay tuned for the results!

Friday, November 6, 2009

remedy quarterly

I have been sadly slacking in the culinary department lately. A last-minute and impromptu trip to Pennsylvania for Halloween completely threw off my food shopping schedule (I can only make it to the market on Saturdays), and has consequently, thrown off my entire week. This week has been an experiment in eating down the fridge, which isn't as much exciting as it is challenging. Lots of beets. Lots of carrots. Always potatoes. We've been eating a lot of roots, to say the least.

So, in the absence of inspired recipes, I instead bring you: inspired publications!

I recently discovered Remedy Quarterly, a really beautiful start-up publication featuring food, stories, illustrations, and interviews. They haven't printed yet, and are working toward a $3,000 goal in order to fund their 1000 copy run. Their first issue focuses on the theme of home, and they aim to bring their readers "recipes from storied pasts and personal histories" as "the best remedy, the most comfort, the finest nutrition is a heart-warming and stomach-filling meal." In the days when mega-publishers are crumbling, I feel really good about getting behind a great independent publication. Check out their website and, if you like what you see, support them through Kickstarter. Just $7.00 gets you an advance copy of their first issue, and $38 gets you a year-long subscription along with a tote!