February 18, 2013

RECIPE: Roasted Mustard "Chicken" and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

You come home, beat from a long day at work and ready to stuff your face full of delicious dinner. Unfortunately, magic elves have not prepared a five course dinner for you. Nope, dinner is all on your tired, hungry self. May I suggest this delightful dish as the solution to your weekday meal conundrum? It's simple, it's fast (30 minutes of cook time!) and it is crazy tasty thanks to a sauce made with grainy dijon mustard, dark stout, and scallions. Basically, you stir together mustard, stout, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, pour that goodness over quartered mushrooms and vegan "chicken", and then roast it all up in a screaming hot oven. While the oven's doing all the hard work, you're free to handle the polenta on the stovetop. Don't be fooled by all this "polenta is so work intensive" nonsense you hear so often. It's easy, I promise. A little whisking, 20 or so minutes of cook time, and you'll have creamy, smooth polenta.

A quick note on the chicken-in-quotation-marks. This recipe has a ton of versatility, so you can take your pick of your favorite chicken-y vegetarian protein. Tempeh, seitan cutlets, or soy curls would all work wonderfully here (I don't suggest tofu, as the texture doesn't suit this dish). When I made the recipe, I used Quorn Chik'n Cutlets, which my omnivore boyfriend enjoys as a chicken-substitute. Unfortunately for vegans, they contain egg whites, so try one of the alternative proteins if you want the 100% vegan version of this dish. I promise, whatever you choose, the meal will make your weekday evening extra delicious.

Roasted Mustard "Chicken" and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta
Inspired by Bon Appetit
Serves 4

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and quartered
4 servings of your favorite chicken-y protein (tempeh, seitan, soy curls are recommended*)
1/4 cup grainy dijon mustard
1/4 cup dark stout
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch (about 6 stalks) spring onions, ends trimmed and finely chopped

3 cups water
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a large baking dish with a bit of oil. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, stout, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic until smooth. Add the mushrooms and "chicken" to the baking dish, pour the sauce into the dish, and toss to coat the mushrooms and "chicken" evenly. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, then add the chopped scallions and roast for an additional 5 minutes. When done, the mushrooms should be caramalized and tender, and the sauce will be mostly absorbed.

While things are roasting, bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, and heat the milk briefly in the microwave until warm. Once the water is at a boil, pour in the polenta, whisking vigorously, and reduce heat to medium-low. The polenta will thicken quickly, and after it does, pour in the warm milk, whisking the polenta to keep it smooth. At this point, whisk the polenta every couple of minutes until the grains are cooked to your liking - about 20-25 minutes is where I like mine (tender but not total mush). When the polenta is done, stir in the butter and remove from heat.

The mushrooms and "chicken" should finish up right around the time your polenta is done. Serve one portion of the "chicken" and a quarter of the mushrooms over a cup or so of the polenta. If you have extra polenta, you can refrigerate the leftovers and reheat the polenta for breakfast the next day. The polenta will thicken when cold but softens back into a porridge consistency when heated. I like mine warmed up the the microwave, topped with a drizzle of maple syrup and a splash of non-dairy milk.

*Notes on protein preperation: 
For Tempeh: Cut 4 (2 ounce) portions of  tempeh, simmer in enough vegetable stock to cover tempeh for 5 minutes, or until tempeh is plump. Proceed with recipe.

For Seitan Cutlets: Use 4 (3 ounce) cutlets of chicken-style seitan. Proceed with recipe.

For Soy Curls: Hydrate 4 ounces of dried soy curls in enough hot vegetable stock to cover for 8-10 minutes. Pour into colander and press excess moisture from the hydrated curls with a slotted spoon/potato masher. Proceed with recipe.

February 7, 2013

RECIPE: Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice

I am all about comfort food, especially this time of year. As I write this, it is a typical Seattle winter day... which means it is gray, chilly, and drizzly. PRIME comfort food weather, I tell you. As of late, I've been getting cozy with kimchi fried rice. It's a rising star in the world of foodie trends, and for good reason - the addition of cabbage kimchi transforms typically bland fried rice into a just-spicy-enough, pleasantly-pungent dish that you can't put down. If you're unfamiliar with kimchi, I urge you to become friendly with the Korean dish celebrating cabbage in all of its chili-tinged, fermented glory.

My recipe for kimchi fried rice is heavy on the vegetables compared to other recipes I've seen, which means that in addition to loads of tender cabbage the rice is dotted with caramelized mushrooms, grated carrots, protein-packed edamame, and fresh scallions. It's happiness in a bowl.

A few notes before you go frolicking off into kimchi heaven:

-  Traditionally-crafted kimchi often includes fish sauce as an ingredient, so you'll want to find a brand that leaves out the fishiness. I happen to love Trader Joe's store brand of cabbage kimchi (found in their refrigerator section), which is vegan, spicy-but-not-hot and inexpensive to boot.

- You're welcome to use white or brown rice - I've tried both and they are equally delicious, though I find the toothsome texture of the brown rice to be quite pleasing.

- I followed Molly Wizenberg's recommendation of using butter (Earth Balance is my favorite vegan option) instead of oil, and she is 100% right about the importance of the butter in rounding out the kimchi's pungency. That said, I think that coconut oil would be equally effective should you want a whole-foods alternative.

Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
makes 6-8 entree-sized servings

4 tablespoons non-dairy butter, divided (may substitute coconut oil or neutral cooking oil)
8 ounces shitake mushrooms*, cleaned, stems removed, and sliced
3 cups vegan napa cabbage kimchi, chopped (about 2 packages of Trader Joe's kimchi)
3 medium carrots, grated
1 cup shelled frozen edamame, thawed
6 cups cooked medium-grain rice, cooled and preferably one day old
salt to taste
1 bunch scallions, sliced

Bring a large skillet or wok over medium high heat (I do mean large - you'll need a 12 to 14 inch pan to fit all the rice without making a total mess). Add one tablespoon of butter and sauté the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and sauté the kimchi and carrots until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice, edamame, mushrooms, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring to combine. You want the rice to brown a bit and soak up all the spicy goodness from the kimchi, which will only take a few minutes. Once the rice is done, adjust seasoning, stir in the scallions, and serve immediately.

*The first time I tested this recipe, my grocer was out of shitakes, and it was sad. You can see in the photograph that I used button mushrooms instead. Today I made the rice with shitakes as planned and the difference is substantial - the dish really benefits from a flavorful 'shroom.