Tricky little things, vegan recipes. One minute, you’re all “Yay! I’m gonna eat delicious veggies!” Then suddenly you’re in an aisle at Whole Foods scratching your head, wondering what to do with ingredients like nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten, and xanthan gum.
While we were inspired by our interview with Tracy Hurst to create four vegan recipes, we were also challenged: We didn’t want to create vegan versions of non-vegan favorites. In other words, no seitan Buffalo chicken bites, no cheese-free mac and cheese.
Tracy told us her favorite foods are hearty and rich: “I really like winter foods, things like pot pies, stews, curries, soups. Or a big sloppy stew with mushrooms, potatoes, seitan, and a dark roux. A dark sauce is great with a pilsner, a bright, hoppy beer.” She’s a full-time vegan, so she gets a pass on the seitan.
We made a mushroom pot pie, one that’s rich and satisfying in the way only a comfort food can deliver when the weather is gray and cold. Lately, as we hunker down and prepare for yet another Chicago winter (mild this year, but still Chicago in the winter), we’ve been reading about the Norwegian concept of koselig. That’s the idea behind this pot pie: Think wool blankets and blazing fires; candles at twilight and mugs of hot chocolate. This pie is cozy like that. You should probably invite some friends over for a pajama and pot pie party. We just made that a thing.
Pie crusts, whether topping a savory or sweet filling, should be tender, flaky, and buttery. That’s a problem when you’re avoiding butter. So we relented a bit on our no-substitutes rule and made a vegan crust using Earth Balance. We found it was a pretty decent substitute for the rich flavor of butter. Of course, if you’re so inclined, you can just substitute butter back in. And while we’re fans of an all-butter crust, it’s hard to deny the fool-proof flakiness a little vegetable shortening like Crisco can offer. Balk if you must. We honestly don’t care. We’ll just be here in the corner shoveling pot pie in our mouths, ready to share when you’ve finally come around.
Serve this dish with a crisp salad. Take Tracy’s advice and go hoppy and bright with your beer. Darker beers work well too, especially if you can get your hands on a mushroom stout.
Mushroom Pot Pie
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 stick (or 8 Tablespoons) Earth Balance (original)
2 ounces all-vegetable Crisco
1/2 teaspoon salt
approximately 1/3 cup ice water
1/2 large onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced 1/4” thick
2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4” thick
1 medium fennel bulb, diced
1 medium turnip, diced
1.5 pounds mushrooms, quartered (cremini, white button, or any combination of mushrooms)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
5 Tablespoons Earth Balance (original)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups vegetable broth or mushroom broth (We like the mushroom base by Better than Bouillon)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Dice the Earth Balance and put it in the freezer. Let the Earth Balance chill for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the flours and salt. Add the cold Earth Balance and the Crisco to the flour mixture and cut them in, using either your hands or a pastry cutter. (This can also be done by pulsing the mixture in a food processor, but we would rather wash our hands than a kitchen utensil. Bonus: the process is as soothing as sipping on beer, which you should also be doing while prepping this kick-ass pot pie. Do what works for you!) Continue until the mixture resembles coarse meal and clumps temporarily when squeezed in your hand. Add cold water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and fold gently together until you can gather the dough into a clump.
Turn dough onto a board or countertop and fold a few times to bring it all together, being careful not to overwork. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes while you make the filling. You can do this ahead of time, using the dough in the next day or two.
In a large pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, and turnip and stir to coat everything with oil. Add a healthy pinch of salt to help the vegetables release some liquid and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened (about 8-10 minutes).
Pour the softened vegetables out of the pan into a large bowl. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil. Turn up the heat to high. Wait until the oil is good and hot (just about smoking) and carefully add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown and the liquid they’ll release begins to cook off. Add a good pinch of salt. Add the garlic and chopped thyme. Stir to combine. Add the cooked vegetables back to the pan and toss it all together. Set aside. (Yeah, this recipe has a lot of steps. But it’s gonna be worth it. Just think koselig.)
In a medium saucepan, heat the Earth Balance until melted. Whisk in the flour and allow to cook until slightly toasty, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the vegetable stock (this can be cold or room temp--not warm). Continue whisking until the sauce boils and thickens. Crack in some black pepper. Taste and adjust salt. Some vegetable broth can be salty, so make sure you take that into account when seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables and stir together. Pour the whole mess into a 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out to a little less than 1/4” thick. Shoot for a rectangle slightly bigger than your baking dish. Lay the dough on top of the filling and roll the edges under. Crimp the edges and poke slits in the top.
Put the pie directly into the hot oven. Bake until the pie crust is puffed and browned and the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let cool 20-25 minutes, then serve.