Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Vegan Mushroom Casserole

© Constantine William Spyrou

Over the course of the past 10-15 years, tons of new food movements have started springing up around the nation. There's been a huge street food movement that's swept across America, with food trucks becoming some of the new hip things around. Farm to table has been a huge one, with people being concerned about eating from local farmers to get the freshest ingredients. There has also been a large movement concerning vegan diets, with many people switching to vegan with the ideal that going vegan is much healthier for you (or other environmental reasons). Having tasted vegan food, I do notice that it is common to find vegan dishes that tend to lack in flavor. Even though vegan dishes don't have meat or dairy in them, that doesn't need to be the case. You can create delicious flavor in vegan dishes through technique and proper seasoning, as well as combining the flavors of vegan ingredients very well. 

This recipe takes on the vegan world and aims to give it a new level of flavor and deliciousness by taking some of the best things of vegan cuisine into one dish: earthy, rich mushrooms, rice, and herbs that just punch up flavors to that next level. Utilizing all of these flavors in a mushroom casserole will help give deep, rich, and delicious flavors into the vegan world. This dish is also made with a great vegetable stock, which is included in this recipe! 

Recipe will serve up to 12 people.

For the Casserole Base:

1 pound button mushrooms, chopped
1 pound shittake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped (save the stems for the vegetable stock!)
1 pound cromini mushrooms, chopped
1 pound oyster mushrooms, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups Homemade Vegetable Stock (see recipe below)
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
2 cups red wine (Merlot is the best for this, or any other full-bodied red wine)
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
Zest and juice of two lemons
6 cups long grain rice, cooked
Salt and pepper to season

For the Homemade Vegetable Stock:

(Note: For all of these vegetables, its okay to leave skins on if you want, as this stock will be strained out at the end anyways.)

1 gallon of water
3 large white onions, halved
1 bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
4 large carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 cups of roughly chopped leeks
Shittake mushroom stems from above
1/2 cup cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup juniper berries
1/2 cup fresh parsley, bruised
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed

For the Topping: 

2 cups sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Roast the onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and fennel for the stock in the oven for 40 minutes. Keep the oven around for the casserole baking.
3. Add the roasted vegetables (and any of the pan "drippings") to a large pot. Add the aromatics, mushroom stems, and water. Bring to a boil for 90 minutes, then strain.
4. Season the chopped mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add to a hot pan with olive oil and the diced onions, and cook until they are all browned and the onions are starting to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and herbs at this point. Cook for another 5 minutes to let the flavors mix, then add the lemon juice and zest. Stir for 2 more minutes, then add the red wine, vegetable stock, and some more seasoning.
6. Bring the mushroom mixture to a boil and let the liquid reduce by half. Mix in with the cooked rice, and transfer to a casserole dish rubbed with olive oil. Sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
7. When the casserole is cooled, sprinkle the top with fresh parsley, and serve.

This dish is all about mushrooms and deep, rich flavors. Without meats and other animal products to help deepen the flavor of the mushrooms casserole, it is a challenge. However, this dish shows that even vegan dishes can taste absolutely delicious. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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