Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pot Pies and Lies: Is the the Corningware half empty or half full?

Today I was just feeling disappointed with the world. There is a fair amount of disappointing stuff going on and I just felt very grey for most of the day. People lie to each other, say mean things without thinking, think only of themselves, and often just let each other down. Haven't we all had those days where we feel that so many people and institutions around us are just...disappointing?

Well, on those days, I turn to starchy, gravy-laden casseroles because, well, how do we Americans deal with disappointment? 1. We buy stuff we don't need and can't afford (something I'd do except that I don't need anything and I can't afford anything), 2. We complain (which I'm doing, by the way) and 3. We eat food we shouldn't in quantities that are nearly always imprudent.

As this is a vegan cooking blog, even #3 isn't really as bad as it could be. I mean, there are vegan foods like Skittles and solid shortening that you probably shouldn't eat an entire tub of, but even so, they're a little healthier than other, non-vegan choices. So, ignoring the serious psychological problems related to using food to deal with disappointment, I decided to deal with my disappointment by making a pot pie, because pot pie is almost never disappointing.

Of course, the 'real' thing, the pot pie made with chicken and cream and white sauce and a rich shortening crust, that pie, while perhaps a perfect #3 way to deal with disappointment, is, in itself, a two-faced disappointment in that it can taste oh-so-good, but pack an artery-clogging 1200 calories into what a typical person would consider a meal. So, unless you're really looking to punish yourself for having such high expectations to begin with (which would eventually lead to disappointment), the vegan alternative is a slightly better choice, and would never call you fat behind your back.


So pot pie. Who doesn't like pot pie? This one is different from the one I typically make because this is simply a filling topped with biscuits. I'm a huge fan of hot-water pie crust for pot pies, but I just didn't have the time to devote to rolling a crust out, so I settled for biscuits, which are never disappointing when homemade.

I've gone on and on about my biscuit love before. It may be excessive and obsessive, but it is a love that is pure and true and will not be tarnished by minor disappointments or white lies. That is why the thought of these seemingly discrete biscuits, perfect in their round, puffy individualism crowding together to form a protective biscuit shield over the delicate, vulnerable filling is such a perfect antidote to my dissatisfaction with humanity.

Unfortunately, this is one of those recipes that isn't exact or even clear, so just do your best.

Half a block of firm tofu, diced and marinated in vegetable broth for at least an hour
olive oil
Dried leek -maybe 3 tbs (not easy to find except at Lebanese or Persian markets. I didn't feel like chopping onion)
Most of a can of chickpeas (what was left in my fridge)
2 stalks of celery, diced
A large handful of baby carrots, diced
A cup of frozen peas
A cup of frozen green beans
1.5 cup of vegetable broth (Better than Bouillion "no chicken" base)
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs soy sauce

Biscuit Dough:
1 cup of while wheat pastry flour
1 cup of white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
3/4 cup soymilk

1. Saute the tofu and dried leek in some oil until the tofu is browned.
2. Add the celery and carrot and saute until slightly softer.
3. Add the frozen vegetables and chickpeas and a little broth.
4. Cover and cook until the frozen veggies are heated through.
5. Preheat the oven to 400F.
6. In a small pan, bring the rest of the broth to a boil with the 2 Tbs of flour and cook for a minute. Turn off the heat then add the nutritional yeast and soy sauce.
7. Add the sauce to the vegetables and pour into the casserole dish you plan to use. My sauce looked a bit runny, so I dusted everything with another Tbs of flour, stirred it in and let it sit, covered for a minute.
8. Mix the 2 c. of flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
9. Cut in the shortening with a pastry knife or with your fingers.
10. Add soymilk all at once and stir quickly just to moisten the flour mix.
11. Dump the dough on a board and fold over several times, pushing, NOT stretching the dough.
12. Pat dough until it's roughly half an inch thick, then cut 2" rounds and place them on the casserole, cutting the last few bits of dough to seal any spaces.
13. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.
14. Don't be stupid (like me). Remember to put a pan or foil under the casserole, so that when it bubbles over, it doesn't make a mess in the oven.

It was good. If you actually follow my recipe, double the filling. What filling there was, was very tasty, so I it's a win for the day. What makes it a true win for the day was being able to serve it to the Redheads, who do not disappoint me. Well, the little one wouldn't eat any of the pot pie, but I will persevere. There will be more pot pies in days to come.