Sunday, October 31, 2010
On a recent flight from LA to Chicago, I found myself completely wrapped up in Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. It's a non-fictional account of the meat industry in the US, and in my humble opinion, an important piece of work for anyone who grocery shops and cooks. Foer delves into the economic, environmental, and public health impact of factory farms, and encourages readers to think about the big picture behind what's in their shopping carts.
Needless to say, my fiance was more than a bit shocked when I got off the plane in Chicago, land of Italian beef, meaty deep dish pizza, and the old school steakhouse, and declared that I was considering going vegetarian. While the last two months have been a period of transition, it's also been a time for some really fun cooking.
No one's perfect, and I can't say that I've been following this vegetarian thing to the letter, but I'm making an effort. To me, eating well is a practice, just like yoga or writing, or even a relationship. It's something to work on, improve at, and go back to, even if things fall off track for a bit.
That said, dishes like this make vegetarianism easy as pie. Pot pie. Pot pie with a rich flaky crust, a creamy flavorful filling, and enough heft to make you say "chicken who?".
Vegetable Pot Pie
Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp, crust from Tartine
Fennel! Who knew? I don't like the licorice flavor of raw fennel, but cooked down in the pot pie filling, it was mild and dee-licious. Give it a try, I find it lovely.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 small heads fennel, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 5 cups)
1 small russet potato, peeled and diced small (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cream of mushroom soup
1 cup whole milk
1 cup frozen baby green peas
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
1/4 cup parsley
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 large egg yolk
Tartine pie crust
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Prepare the pie dough, and chill in the fridge while you prepare the pie filling.
Melt butter over medium heat in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add fennel, onions, and carrots, and cook until just soft and onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and potato, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring rarely, until mushrooms have let off water and are shrunken, about 6 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables, stir to coat, and cook until raw flavor is gone, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add broth and milk, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add peas, herbs, cream of mushroom, and vinegar, and stir to coat. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn filling into an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.
Whisk egg together with 2 teaspoons water and a pinch of salt until evenly mixed. Set aside.
Roll out one circle of pie dough, and press it into a pie dish. Fill the shell with the vegetables, and cut the second circle of crust to fit over the baking dish. Place dough over filling and tuck into the lower crust. Brush dough with egg wash and cut slits in the top to vent. Place on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit at least 5 minutes before serving.