Shepherd's Pie, Pot Stickers, Cleaning out the Crisper Drawer

Last Saturday (1/17) I knew exactly three things when I got up.

1. The weather was positively amazing. Amazing enough to run errands on my lipstick red, 1000cc, pack mule. I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my bike since my car died. Commuting to work in the morning by motorcycle is at best inconvenient (what with gear and luggage considerations), and at worst a little scary (what with half-asleep, idiot drivers yakking away on cell phones and trying to balance coffee and bagels in their laps). Carpooling with my roommate has been a godsend, but during the winter it leaves my bike alone and lonely, alternating between being under a cover and in the garage. I have felt guilty, even while taking the occasional weekend ride. It was when I looked outside on Saturday that I realized my problem was not with my bike, but with winter in general. Gearing up and strapping on my saddlebags was more pleasure than hassle, and I zipped around my neighborhood running errands and had a grand time.

2. I wanted to invite my mom over for homemade pot stickers. She loves pot stickers, and I love hanging out with her.

3. I wanted to make shepherd's pie and blog about it.

I didn't photograph the pot stickers, unfortunately. I was too busy actually making them, and they are fairly labor intensive. I used Lolo's recipe(ish) from Vegan Yum Yum (can you tell I love her blog?), though I made the filling a little different. I did make the baked seitan, but opted for cabbage, carrots, green onions and garlic for the filling. After all those things took a spin in the food processor, I put the whole lot in a pan and cooked it up a little, just to soften the vegetables. I added soy sauce, sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, ginger and black pepper, all to taste.

The best part about making those is that 1 package of potsticker wrappers is never enough to use all the filling, which means I have a delicious pile of well-seasoned, parcooked vegetables mixed with ground seitan in my fridge. This led to a thai-inspired sort of pasta salad.

The cauliflower is just sauteed in olive oil, salt, and chili flakes. The pasta is (of course) whole wheat orzo. The dressing for the salad consisted of about a half cup of peanut butter, a Tbsp of soy sauce, 2 Tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar, and just a tiny knob of red curry paste. This would have been better with cilantro and fresh lime juice, but no way was I making a special trip to the store just to dress up some leftovers.

I guess this has always been my philosopy when I cook. Making what I can with what I have. This is not to say that I don't buy anything special for certain things, but I really try to understand the essence of what I want to eat, and use the things in my pantry to make it happen.

A good example of this is shepherd's pie. The things I know to be absolutely true if I want to call something shepherd's pie are that it must contain vegetables and some kind of protein, it must be a bit like a thick stew, and it must have potatoes on top. Given those guidelines, I can go nuts! I wanted to try treating some seitan like stew meat, frying it up and then adding my veggies during the braising stage. I thought about sprinkling flour in with the seitan as it was frying, but then I felt sort of weird about that given that seitan is more or less made of flour. My filling ended up being a little soupy as a result, but was still delicious.

Here's the seitan, ready to fry:

Also, if I had it to do over again, I would not turn my back on the stuff! Stirring constantly is the order of the day!

Here it is as I added some of the veggies and prepared to let it simmer for a while:

Cabbage is a pretty traditional ingredient for shepherd's pie, and it's also a vegetable I feel i should eat more often, so I pretty much always use it. Don't feel any pressure, however, to use something just because it's common. Again, the most basic components of this dish are vegetables, stew-like consistency, protein of some kind, and a potato topping. It need not be any more structured than that to be absolutely delicious.

Here's the pie with the cabbage in:

You can also see in this shot that the seitan has gotten much paler. It increases in size a bit and gets springy as it gets close to being done. I think the texture is wonderful, but it's probably not going to fool anyone into thinking it's actually meat. Since that is never my goal, it's not really a problem.

A word on the potatoes: normally, it's mashed potatoes that go on top of the pie. I prefer my potatoes skin-on, and with a little bit of crispness. As such, they're chopped into quarters, boiled, and drained.

Then some oil is heated, and they're fried until they're a little brown and crispy on whatever side happens to be touching the pan.

Meanwhile, my vegetables were as soft as I wanted them, the seitan was delicious and springy and chewy, so I added some kale to wilt just a little before the whole thing went in the oven.

The potatoes are smashed while they're frying (no need to go for perfection, rustic is just fine), and then put on top of the pie.

The whole thing is baked for about 30-45 minutes, pretty much until the potatoes get a little more brown on top. I like the challenge of cooking vegan, but there is no reason this couldn't be finished with some shredded cheese like Gruyere over the potatoes.

I made some broccoli to go along, first sauteeing some leeks, onions and garlic until the leeks were translucent.

Then I added lemon juice and a little bit of water and some broccoli florets. I covered the pan to steam it, and probably overdid it a little, as the broccoli didn't have that beautiful green color when all the water had evaporated. Oh well. It was still tasty.

No pictures of the finished product, as this was not a spectacularly photogenic meal. The best part about shepherd's pie is that the leftovers are dynamite for lunches!!

For a special treat on Friday night (1/23), Mari made vegetarian onion soup out of her "Vegetables Every Day" cookbook. It was INCREDIBLE, easily the best french onion soup I've ever had. I just had to get a picture of the cheesy, crouton-y, brothy goodness:

I have to say, it sure is nice to have someone make dinner for me!

There's also been knitting (as usual!), I finished the Bell Curve skirt from Knitty. It turned out beautifully, and I'm very happy with it, even though it could NOT have been more boring to knit!

Holy macro focus, Batman:

And last but not least, my plans for Tony Harrison:

Stay tuned for more, and as always thank you for reading!!

1 comment:

Beauty and the Bargain said...

I can personally attest to the tastiness of the shepherd's pie. I"m crossing my fingers and hoping that more dinner invitations are forthcoming!