Thursday, March 31, 2011

Veggie Might: Recreating Comfort Food—Deconstructed Vegan Pot Pie

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

There are a few comfort foods from childhood I’ve still never gotten around to vegetarianizing, and chicken pot pie has been one of them. My mom was not a “from scratch” cook, so I didn’t have a platform to jump from; and remembering how much I loved those individual frozen chicken pot pies has been enough to sustain me all these years.

Then in December, The Kitchn posted a recipe for a vegan pot pie that’s been haunting my dreams. It has everything: golden-brown tofu cubes in place of chicken, a savory broth of nutritional yeast (nooch) and soy sauce, peas and carrots, and a flaky crust that would make Mrs. Swanson cry.

But I’ve been working hard lately to rein in my waistline, and the last thing I need is another pie in my repertoire. I started thinking: “What if I take this bad boy apart and make it with a grain, like millet? Then I could call it Deconstructed Vegan Pot Pie, like I’m a fancy food person, and save about 20 grams of fat.” So I did that, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. CB agreed in his typically dry fashion, “This tastes just like pot pie. The tofu is surprisingly like chicken. It’s really good.”

There were a few deviations from the original recipe, aside from scratching the crust. I swapped out the mirepoix (onions with carrots and celery) at the saute stage for just onions and used frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans, lima beans, and corn) instead of just peas. You can use whatever vegetables your heart desires; fresh or frozen, it’s your call. Next time, I would add broccoli to the mix. I also upped the nooch by a teaspoon and ditched the salt. It’s plenty savory to my taste.

Just about any grain would work too. Millet is stubborn, being birdseed and all, and takes no less than 35 minutes to cook and at least a 2:1 water to grain ratio. To substitute another grain, just modify your cooking time and liquid amounts accordingly, throw your veg in during the last five minutes of cook time, and you’re golden. Quinoa, cous cous, or amaranth would make terrific substitutions.

There’s no crust to contend with, so you could feasibly make this one-pot dish on a weeknight for supper, though it does take about an hour; and the leftovers are divine if you have any. I wrangled a serving for lunch the next day, and, it smelled so good, I was threatened with theft.

Deconstructed Pot Pie is firmly in the both the comfort food and healthy food rotations. Mrs. Swanson, you’ve been replaced.


If you dig this recipe, point your shovel toward these treasures:

Deconstructed Vegan Pot Pie
Inspired by Vegan Pot Pie from The Kitchn
Serves 3 to 4

1/2 cup millet
8 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed to 1/4” dice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 red potato, diced
1 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water (or more as necessary)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, like peas, carrots, and green beans
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
black pepper to taste

1) Using a large skillet, brown cubed tofu in teaspoon of oil. You may need a bit more oil depending on the type of skillet you’re using. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet will require only about a teaspoon. When tofu is golden brown, stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent.

2) Add potato, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast, stirring occasionally until potato is just cooked through. Drizzle in a bit of water as necessary to keep things moving. Your kitchen should be smelling great.

3) Pour vegetable broth and 1 1/2 cups of water into mix and scrap anything stuck from the bottom of the pan. Stir in millet and crushed thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, bring broth to a simmer, then cover and cook for 35 minutes. Peek in and stir occasionally, adding more water if necessary. There should always be enough broth to just cover the millet.

4) After about 35 minutes remove lid and add frozen vegetables. Replace lid and cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and millet is fluffy. When the vegetables are cooked to your liking, remove from heat and give a couple grinds of black pepper and a dash of salt if necessary. (I found the soy sauce/nooch combo to be enough saltiness.)

5) Spoon the deconstructed pot pie bowls for a comforting supper. Serve warm with a green salad and expect a hug.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
3 Servings: 340 calories, 11g fat, 10g fiber, 28g protein, $1.12
4 Servings: 255 calories, 8g fat, 7.8g fiber, 21g protein, $.84

1/2 cup millet: 378 calories, 4g fat, 8.5g fiber, 11g protein, $0.42
8 ounces extra firm tofu: 250 calories, 12.8g fat, 16g fiber, 64g protein, $0.80
1 tablespoons olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 small yellow onion: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.25
3 cloves garlic: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
1 small red potato: 56 calories, 0g fat, 1.6g fiber, 1.6g protein, $0.40
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast: 47 calories, 0.7g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.33
2 tablespoons soy sauce: 16 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 2g protein, $0.12
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth: 30 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.29
2 cup frozen mixed vegetables: 90 calories, 0g fat, 5g fiber, 5g protein, $0.60
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
1 teaspoon black pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
TOTALS: 1019 calories, 33g fat, 31g fiber, 84g protein, $3.37
PER SERVING (TOTALS/3): 340 calories, 11g fat, 10g fiber, 28g protein, $1.12
PER SERVING (TOTALS/4): 255 calories, 8g fat, 7.8g fiber, 21g protein, $.84

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