Friday, January 22, 2010

Stew-pendously Vegetarian

It was the last day of the 1999, back when everyone's biggest fear was of something called Y2K. Our dear friends Jon and Jessie had decided that we had to usher in the 21st century on Potato Island in Plum Island Sound, which, as my brother-in-law Dave puts it, is a place still tettering on the brink of the 19th.

To get there, you must go by boat at high tide or by foot at low. As ice in the creek made a boat ride impossible, we set off on a 45-minute hike across the frozen marshes, with backpacks full of warm clothes and the fixings for dinner, an elegant vegetable stew from a recipe by Gordon Hammersley of Hammersley's Bistro, one of our favorite Boston restaurants. (To keep our packs light, we had taken the precaution of burying the evening's alcoholic libations in a do-it-yourself wine cellar under the house during our fall close-up visit.)

The stew was magnificent, the champagne well chilled, and our elation at watching the lights in Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich continue to shine after midnight was unsurpassed. Flash forward a decade, and blessed with a bounty of vegetables from our winter CSA, we decided it would be most appropriate to enjoy that Hammersley stew on yet another January weekend.

In reality, there are two recipes for this stew. The first was published in the January 1997 issue of Food and Wine in an article called Sunday Night Stews. Hammersley later updated it for his book Bistro Cooking at Home. We use a combination of the two, picking and choosing the ingredients that add the richest flavor, including the homemade mushroom stock. So if you want to serve a flavorful stew that will go nicely with a fire in the fireplace and a robust red wine-- and you've got vegetarian guests coming -- this is the dish to serve. The mouthwatering cheddar-garlic crumble crust will inspire oohs. The tasty root vegetable stew, with its rich mushroom gravy, will earn ahhs. Best of all, no one will miss the meat.

Gordon Hammersley's Winter Vegetable Stew With Cheddar-Garlic Crumble Crust
adapted from Food and Wine and Bistro Cooking At Home
Serves 6

For the stew
About 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
About 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery root (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 parsnip--peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 rutabaga -- peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 medium Portobello mushrooms (about 1 pound), stems reserved for broth, caps cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups mushroom stock (see recipe belowNote: In a pinch, you can use low-sodium chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water.  
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram

For the cheddar garlic crumble crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter stick, cut into small cubes and well chilled
1 to 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
Pinch of coarsely ground pepper
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
(NOTE: If you like you can sprinkle some chives into the dough -- that's what we did!)

For the mushroom stock (Makes four cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds white mushrooms, finely chopped
Reserved Portobello mushroom stems, brushed clean
1/2 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, such as porcini or shiitake ( 1/2 ounce)
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence or thyme

1. Make mushroom stock (The broth can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
In a large nonreactive saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over moderately high heat. Add the white mushrooms, Portobello stems, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, soy sauce, dried mushrooms, salt, herbes de Provence and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 4 cups, about 1 hour. Pour the broth through a fine strainer into a heatproof bowl. Strain again, leaving any particles at the bottom of the bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to a large casselrole (13" x 9") or a small roasting pan.

3. Add another tablespoon each of butter and oil to the skillet. Add the celery root and butternut squash, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to the roasting pan. Repeat the cooking process using another tablespoon each of butter and oil and the remaining vegetables, except for the mushrooms. Add the remaining tablespoon each of butter and oil. Add the Portobellos and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned all over, about 6 minutes; add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes then transfer everything to the roasting pan and stir to mix.

4.Increase the heat to high and add the wine, tomato paste and broth or water to the saute pan. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and add the marjoram. Cover with foil and bake until the vegetables are just tender, about 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450° and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer.

5.Meanwhile, make the cheddar-garlic crumble crust: In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal., garlic, and pepper.  Add the cream, garlic, and pepper. Stir in the cheese and mix lightly with a wooden spoon until the dough just holds together. Cover and set aside.

6.Using a large spoon, dollop the surface of the vegetables with ping-pong ball-sized dots of the cheddar crumble crust. The top of the casserole should look like the surface of the moon; bumps and craters are ideal.  Return the casserole to the oven and bake uncovered until the topping is cooked and browned, about 25 minutes.

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