Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegan Hachis Parmentier: BB Shepherds Pie

Classic French cuisine is mouth-watering, aromatic, and beautiful but not terribly vegan-friendly. Let’s have a brief glimpse at the typical French fare: croque-monsieur, coq-au-vin, soufflé, paté, bouillabaisse, crème brulée. Meat, cheese, butter, and cream in any form you could possibly concoct. Translating French to English might be a forte of mine, but the challenge of translating French recipes into meatless meals is much more fun and very much a vegan venture. And just in time for the holiday season, amidst my search for a vegan offering that will satisfy my need for challenge and impress my omnivore audience, my NPR addiction paid off - All Things Considered did a segment on cooking French with shortcuts featuring a dish called Hachis Parmentier (wha?).

This is essentially a Beef Burgundy or Boeuf Bourguignon Shepherds Pie, a classic meat and potato comfort food. I recently tried a similar dish with a biscuit topping, but it came out all biscuit. So I thought I’ve give tubers a shot. It was incredibly easy and I loved how well the potatoes browned in the oven. Bite by bite, I became more convinced that this will be a Thanksgiving or Christmas highlight. Why does it make perfect holiday fare? It’s salty, meaty, dark, rich, tender and it doesn’t scream vegan. That seems to be the equation that works with my family anyway. They don’t take to seitan roast or Tofurkey as well as something smothered in gravy and topped with starch.

A good trick to giving tempeh a meaty flavor is to simmer it in seasoning. I actually didn’t have vegan Worcestershire sauce, so I made my own and just put threw the tempeh in the sauce pot. If you choose to use seitan, this method doesn’t work the same way as it softens the seitan too a near mush – use the marinade method instead. The traditional recipes would have you remove the vegetables only using the stock and “meat,” I think that’s a travesty and insult to the savory chunks responsible for the flavor. Save the veggies! Don’t let them cook in vain. The classic also mixes Gruyere into the potatoes. I personally did not use vegan cheese, but Daiya might be a nice addition if you’re into it. This passed the omnivore test. I recommend enjoying with a bottle of red.

Vegan Hachis Parmentier
Makes 4-6 servings
Total cook time: 1 hour


For the “Beef”
3-4 T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1¼ c. water
1 pkg tempeh, cubed or 2 c. seitan, cubed
Cooking spray

For the Stew
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small turnip, chopped
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced (1½ T)
1 bay leaf
1 tsps thyme, dried
2 T. tomato paste
2 c. vegetable broth (from bouillon)
½ - 1 c. water
2 tsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper

For the Potatoes
2 large russet potatoes, cubed
2 T. Earth Balance
¼ - ½ c. almond or soy milk or creamer
Pinch of salt
¼ c. parsley or chives
½ c. vegan cheese (optional)


Cooking suggestion: The tempeh or seitan can be prepared before or at the same time as the stew. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and cook potatoes while the stew simmers.

For the “beef”: If using tempeh, bring the Worcestershire sauce and water to a boil and add tempeh. Lower heat to medium and let sauce reduce by half, stirring tempeh occasionally to make sure all cubes are coated evenly about 8-10 minutes. When reduce, strain tempeh reserving sauce. Heat a skillet over high heat and coat with cooking spray. Brown the tempeh until cooked evenly on all sides. If using seitan, mix Worcestershire sauce with ¾ c. water and marinate seitan in a medium bowl for 20 minutes. Brown the tempeh until cooked evenly on all sides Set aside to add to stew.

For the stew: In a large sauce pan or wide, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and turnips. Cook until vegetables soften, 8-10 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute before adding vegetable broth and ½ cup of water. Bring stew to a boil and reduce heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Mix ¼ cup of water with cornstarch and whisk into stew. Add “beef” and ¼ cup of reserved Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When stew has thickened, remove from heat and transfer to casserole dish.

For the potatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Strain the potatoes and mash with Earth Balance, “milk” of choice, and pinch of salt. Stir in parsley or chives and cheese if using. Spread potatoes over stew in a single, smooth layer.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

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