Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Vegan Thanksgiving, Part I: Mushroom Pot Pies

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s fall. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s almost November. This can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving is almost here! Forgive my excessive enthusiasm, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. This is mostly because it is a day revolving around food, many of which happen to be my favorite foods: stuffing, mashed potatoes, multiple kinds of pie, cranberry sauce, green beans...did I mention pie? I also love Thanksgiving because, for the past 7 years, we have spent it with my aunt and uncle’s family in Minnesota. You would not be the first to wonder why the California relatives go to the Minnesota relatives’ in November, but it’s tradition. Unfortunately, we are not going to Minnesota this year, but this does give me an opportunity to work out my most compelling and delicious vegan Thanksgiving dishes.

So, this is my first vegan Thanksgiving, and I could not be more excited. One of the great effects of becoming vegan is that it forces you to reexamine your food choices, and shake them up. Well, I am turning Thanksgiving upside down this year! A meat and dairy free Thanksgiving is not traditional, but I believe it can still be delicious. I decided to start cooking early this year, so that I might inspire some of you with the delicious foods I’m going to be posting over the next few weeks. If you are hosting a vegetarian or a vegan at your Thanksgiving, or even if you’re just looking to make a change to your usual holiday menu, I hope you’ll check out the recipes I will be posting.

This first dish is intended to be a main course, a kinder version of the turkey, if you will. I made these in french onion soup bowls for dinner, but I think ramekins would be sufficient for the big day, as this will be accompanied by several side dishes, plus appetizers and desserts. These individual pot pies were absolutely delicious, but I am already planning ways to dress them up for the big event.

Mushroom, Lentil, and Caramelized Onion Pot Pies


1/2 cup French green lentils
3 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion halved and sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz. fresh baby bella mushrooms
1 carrot diced roughly
1 tablespoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons sage chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons chilled non-dairy butter diced
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar

In a small pot, combine the lentils, 3 cups cold water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, pour 3 cups of boiling water over the dried porcini mushrooms, and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, but reserve the porcini liquid.

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the sliced onions. Spread the onions over the surface of the pan. Stir occasionally, allowing the onions to stick and brown, but not burn. Sauté until golden and rich, about 20 to 30 minutes.

In a large pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Sauté the fresh mushrooms, carrots, thyme, and sage, until the carrots and mushrooms are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. When the onions are done, add them to the mushrooms and carrots. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add 2 tablespoons flour and cook for one minute. Add the porcini liquid, porcinis, soy sauce, and tomato paste and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 400º. In a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it forms crumbs. Add the milk mixture and process until it forms a moist dough. Place the dough on a floured surface, cut into quarters, and flatten into 2/3” thick discs.
Spoon the filling into oven proof bowls, and lay the dough discs on top. Place bowls on a foil lined cookie sheet, and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the topping comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve!

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