Monday, December 27, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon for Christmas Eve

I don’t know how Christmas Eve is in your family, but in mine it is thick with tradition. We’ve eaten the same dinner since before I was born, cheese fondue with crusty bread and juicy ham, followed by a decadent chocolate fondue with fruit, pound cake, and designer marshmallows. This was the only day of the year that we ate cheese fondue, so the mere mention of the word meant Christmas Eve to me. As with many things, becoming vegan necessitates reassessing the food traditions in my life. I thought about the experience of fondue, and what it represents to me as a way of recreating a similar food memory. Fondue is savory, cozy, and wintry. It’s about good bread, and the perfect glass of wine. Most of all it’s about flavors that warm you from within.

For my first vegan Christmas Eve, I decided upon Mushroom Bourguignon atop a bed of smooth and creamy mashed potatoes. I first made this dish last March, in the very beginning of my vegan experiment, and I was immediately in heaven. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who claims that the best part of Boeuf Bourguignon is the sauce. I couldn’t agree more, and this dish is a testament to that fact. It has all the heartiness and balanced flavors of the original, but it takes a fraction of the time to prepare. It is also very flexible in its timing. While preparing dinner, some of my neighbors stopped by for a glass of wine, and I just left the stew bubbling on the stove, building flavor, while I spent time with my loved ones. Eating a plate of this Mushroom Bourguignon by the fire, with a glass of Prosecco, it could not have felt more like Christmas Eve.

I served my Bourguignon on mashed potatoes, but I’ve also served it on creamy polenta, or just with a side of bread to soak up the sauce, so feel free to get creative!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon non dairy butter
1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed, slice in 1/4” strips
1 pound cremini mushrooms sliced
1/2 carrot diced finely
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup frozen pearl onions thawed*
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley for a garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook briefly, about  3 minutes, until they begin to color but before they release their liquid. Place the mushrooms in a bowl, and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan on medium high heat, and add the onions, carrots, thyme, garlic, and a good helping of salt and pepper. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine to the pot and scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the heat to high, and simmer until the wine has reduced by a third. Add the tomato paste and the vegetable stock, and stir until combined. Add the mushrooms along with any juices, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are very tender. Add the onions, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the butter and flour and mash together with a fork. Add this mixture to the pot and stir until incorporated. This should thicken the broth a bit. Simmer for 10 more minutes, or until the stew is thick and creamy. Taste for salt and pepper.

Spoon over mashed potatoes, top with a sprinkle of parsley, and enjoy immediately!

*The first time I made Bouef Bourguignon, I used fresh pearl onions. I could not, for the life of me, get them to cook. I simmered that dish for hours, and at the end of it, my pearl onions were still crisp. Now, I always go for frozen pearl onions, which cook perfectly every time.

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