Monday, February 18, 2013

The Comfort Food Series...Part 2: Pot Pie Perfection

Poll almost anyone on what their Top Ten list of comfort food contains and I’m willing to bet almost all of them will include “chicken pot pie” somewhere above number 6.  It’s a universal hug-in-a-bowl that combines delicious bite-size morsels of veggies smothered in a rich, creamy sauce and topped with homemade crust. Seriously, it’s a cold winter night’s dream-come-true.  

And surprisingly, it is extremely easy to veganize. I was worried about this.  After all, when I was growing up, the only way my mother could sneak veggies past my ‘all things green are poison’ radar was to put them in a pot pie with chicken and smother the heck out of them in sauce.  Having a super-finicky daughter who has inherited that vegetable-hating radar of mine, I wondered how I was going to carry on the tradition of “deceptively deliciousness”.

My first attempts led me to re-create “chicken” pot pie, using several different forms of vegan “chick’n” and veggies. Now there’s nothing wrong with this; in fact, if you take the recipe below and add in some diced Gardein Chick’n Filets (the best ones on the market in my opinion) in place of some of the veggies, you’ve got an awesome dinner. But our quest has been to cut back on processed foods – vegan or otherwise – and I wanted to create a dish that could be awesome without being a “re-creation”.  With the help of my always willing to taste-test husband, and my “I’ll eat the potatoes and the crust” kid, I set out on that quest.  I played with various different vegetable combinations, trying to find a balance between colors, nutritional values and textures.  Oh and taste. Because it can be the most nutrient-rich dish on the planet, but if it tastes like asphalt, no one’s gonna care. I’m pretty confident this version below nails it, but I’ll let you be the final judge.

(P.S. next time I’ll remember to photograph the inside of the pie too! I think I might have a pic of it in the archives somewhere…)


Vegan Pot Pie 

Pie Crust:
Ingredients (single crust)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup vegan butter (earth balance or becel vegan)
Ice water
NB: for a double crust use 2 ½ cups flour and 1 cup vegan butter

Chill flour and butter in freezer for 30 minutes. When chilled, combine both in a food processor and mix until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. With processor running, stream in ice water in small amounts until dough starts to form/clumps together. Alternately, use a pastry cutter (also chilled in the freezer with the flour and butter) to cut the butter into the dough, then drizzle water in a little at a time and combine with a fork until dough forms.
Handling the dough as little as possible, form into a ball of dough; wrap in wax paper and chill in fridge until ready to use.

Pot Pie:
2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil (or vegetable broth if you want to avoid the use of oil)
1 large white onion, diced medium
2 stalks of celery, diced small
1 yukon gold potato (or sweet potato), peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup each chopped broccoli and cauliflower florets
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups of vegetable broth
2 tbsps mustard powder (This is my secret weapon. It is amazing what it does to the sauce!)
½ can small tender peas
½ can cooked whole carrots, chopped
1 tbsp Melted vegan butter

1. In a pot of boiling water, cook potatoes and squash until fork tender; drain and set aside.
2. Steam broccoli and cauliflower in microwave-safe dish with a few tablespoons of water for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add oil or vegetable broth, and cook onion and celery until translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
4. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated; about two minutes. Add vegetable broth, a little bit at a time, and stir, scraping down the sides and bottom of the pot to release any bits of flour. Reduce heat; add mustard powder, salt and pepper and simmer until filling has thickened; about 10-15 minutes.
5. Stir in peas and carrots. Taste and adjust salt/pepper seasoning as needed. Set mixture aside to cool slightly.
6. Set out 6 ceramic ramekin or pot pie dishes. Fill with pot pie filling to within ¼ inch from the top of the dish. Roll out pie dough until it’s approx ¼ inch thick and cut in circles about ½ inch larger than the ramekins (I use a small soup bowl inverted on the dough and a paring knife to “cut” out the shape). Cover the dishes with the dough, crimping the sides all the way around. Brush lightly with melted butter.
7. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake at 420F for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven; let cool slightly and serve.

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