Sunday, February 14, 2010

Leek and Potato Cassoulet

I don't usually cook things with unfamiliar words in the name - I'm just not a confit or crudité kind of girl - but I made an exception because this cassoulet sounded so, so yummy.  A cassoulet, for those not in the know, is traditionally a meat and bean stew.  This one, from Veganomicon, is made with potatoes, leeks, kale, white beans, and seitan, with a homemade biscuit crust baked right on top.  It's like a supercomfort food: a stew and pot pie all in one.

This is one of the very few dishes I make that really needs to be made fresh and eaten immediately.  You can eat it a day or two after, but the biscuitty top does get a bit soggy and it's not quite as outrageously tasty.

I made mine in these adorable little single-serving casserole dishes from Le Creuset, but if you don't feel like dropping $20 a piece for your cookware, you can make this in an oven-safe cast iron pan or a regular casserole dish.

Also, this recipe calls for boiling the potatoes.  That works fine and is probably the quickest method, but for extra flavor, try roasting them.

Leek and Potato Cassoulet
Adapted from Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits, in Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

For the stew:
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. finely chopped kale (stems removed)
  • 1 heaping tbsp. fresh thyme (or substitute 1 tsp. dried)
  • 6 c. vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped seitan (bite-sized pieces)
  • 1-1/2 c. white beans
  • salt and pepper, to taste
For the biscuits:
  • 3/4 c. plain nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. chilled vegetable shortening (do your body a solid and get non-hydrogenated)
  1. Boil the diced potatoes in salted water, until just tender enough to be pierced with a fork.  Don't overcook them, and drain them immediately.
  2. While your potatoes are cooking, chop the remaining veggies.  In a large soup pot (or a really big cast-iron one if you have one and want to bake the stew in that), heat some olive oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the leeks, onions, and carrots until just browned.  Be careful not to burn them.
  3. Add the garlic, kale, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper, and sauté a minute more.
  4. By this point, your potatoes should be done.  Add them to the pot.
  5. Mix the cornstarch into a cup or two of the vegetable broth.  Pour it into the pot, along with the remaining vegetable broth.
  6. Bring the stew to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.  Turn on your oven now, and preheat to 425°F.
  7. While the stew is simmering, heat oil over high heat in a sauté pan, and sauté the chopped seitan until nice and browned.  Add the browned seitan and the white beans to the stew toward the end of its simmering time.
  8. Also while the stew is simmering, mix together your biscuits.  Stir the apple cider vinegar into your nondairy milk, and set it aside to curdle for about 5 minutes.
  9. In a mixing bowl, mix 1-1/2 c. of the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  10. Add the chilled shortening to the flour mixture in slivers, and crumble it in with your fingers.  Don't worry about getting it perfectly smooth; it should be clumpy.
  11. Drizzle in the milk mixture, and stir the dough together with a fork.  Don't overmix it.  Wash your hands, then lightly flour them and knead the dough a few times in the bowl.  Add more flour a little at a time until it's not quite so sticky.
  12. The stew should definitely be done simmering by now, so transfer it into your baking dish(es) - either the big cast iron skillet, a casserole dish, or individual casseroles.  Pull off palm-sized balls of dough, roll them into balls, then flatten them and place them on top of the stew.  You don't need to cover the whole thing.
  13. If the stew nearly fills your baking dish, put the dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spillover.  Bake the stew at 425°F for 15 minutes or so, until the biscuit topping is cooked through and browned on top.  Try not to drool as you watch this bake.
Serve hot out of the oven.  Serves about 8.

If this doesn't just make your tummy ridiculously happy, there's something wrong with you.

Happy eating.

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