Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shepherd's Pie - Odyssey's End

Odysseus came home to Ithaca a tired and beaten man. I almost feel sorry for him, walking into his own house and seeing a gaggle of drunken Grecian frat boys and jocks all trying to get all up in his lady's cool. Good thing he walked into a raging party, though - homeboy was probably starving, if not addled by scurvy from years at sea.

This recipe is a work-in-progress. I really the idea of it - bits of seasoned tofu, sauteed with hearty vegetables with a garlicy mashed potato topping. Yum, right? And a great way to finish off these leftovers that have been tapping on the door of my fridge crying "Hey! Hey! Don't even think about that frozen burrito! You started this leftover crusade, now finish it!" I way, WAY over-seasoned the filling, though, and the it wound up tasting a lot Thanksgiving. Not what I'm after in January. And there was too much liquid in the casserole, making it more brothy than gravy-like. Did I mention that I'm not a chef?

I've made some tweak below, though, that should help remedy those problems. I changed the spice mix, decreased that amount of liquid, and used whole wheat flour for thickening instead of corn starch. But if anyone has ever had smashing success with a vegan shepherd's pie, please let me know! I'm just psyched that now my fridge is empty and I can make something brand-new again.

Oh, and if you haven't tried this trick yet, you're soon to become addicted. When buying packages of tofu that are bound for a stir-fry, pan-sear or casserole, try freezing it first, then defrosting. The resulting texture is spongier and well, meatier, meaning it really soaks up a marinade and hold its shape while cooking. Unless I'm pureeing tofu to use in a sauce or soup, I always freeze mine first, and I much prefer the texture.

(The syntax is funny here. Is this what one might have served the strapping tofu shepherds of yore, after then came home from a long day of wrangling the soybeans back to pasture?)

Tofu Shepherd's Pie

16 oz extra-firm tofu, frozen, thawed and drained
1/4 c soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, smashed
olive oil for saute
1 white or yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, scrubbed and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 c broccoli florets, steamed (or frozen peas for a more old-school approach)
1 c vegetable stock
1 T whole wheat flour
1/4 t dried sage
salt and pepper
Roasted Garlic & Kale Mashed Potatoes leftovers (you'll need at least 3 cups)

Preheat oven to 350F. Crumble up the tofu and place in a pan with steep sides. Mix together the soy sauce and garlic and pour over the tofu, tossing to coat. Marinate for about twenty minutes.

Steam the broccoli in a colander over a bit of boiling water for five minutes, or until slightly tender but still al dente. Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about five to six minutes. Add the carrot and celery and saute until softened, another five minutes. Stir in the broccoli or peas. Add the tofu and stir until it sizzles. Stir in the sage and add the salt and several grindings of black pepper. Add 3/4 c of the stock, reserving the last 1/4 c. Add the flour to the remaining stock add stir until dissolved. Allow most of the stock to evaporate from the pan, then add the stock and flour mixture, stirring constantly. You should see the mixture thicken slightly and coat the veggies with a slight sheen.

Add to a 8''x8'' casserole pan and top with a good layer of mashed potatoes. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Makes about 8 servings.

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