Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on Meatlessness, and a Vegetable Pot Pie

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.


  1. I am definitely going to be checking that book out from the library scares me what I don't know about the food industry! Your pot pie looks like reason enough to go vegetarian...yum!!

  2. I'm a vegetarian too.. have been for 2 months(: I actually don't miss meat at all anymore! And that pot pie looks delicious!

  3. The pie looks delicious. And after growing up for my first fifteen years as a vegetarian, I can assure you that there's plenty of good eating, especially now that every grocer is well stocked with tofu and tempeh. You might want to consider supporting local farmers who treat their animals well too, there's plenty of options to eat well without the nasty, industrial meat industry.

    If you're into it, try looking up the 'Tofu Cookery' cookbook; it's a classic.

  4. I'm currently reading Eating Animals. I became a vegetarian in 1995 when I was single. Fast forward to 2010...add a carnivore husband and one quasi-vegetarian 20-month old which equals one complicated dinner time! Thank you so much for this recipe. I definitely think it's one my husband will enjoy.

    I recently made the mushroom lasagna in a lovely white cream sauce from smittenkitchen. My husband enjoyed it so much, he requested it for his birthday dinner! You will not miss this meat in that recipe either!

  5. This pot pie was delicious. There was no absence of substance, and I really didn't mind the "missing" meat. I do have to say, though, that the real star of the show was the crust: the Tartine pie crust is one of my favorite things to come out of Mary's kitchen, and it made this pot pie a great dinner.


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