Learning to love a northwest winter -or- Cassoulet with biscuit topping

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I am happy to report that things are getting back to normal around here. Teaching and trying to move forward on my thesis keeps me busy during the day, but only during normal work hours. And now that the conference is over I have felt the stress just melt away over the past week. Of course, the prospect of meeting Mr. Man's parents this weekend is adding that stress right back to my neck and shoulders. But that is a different story.

One thing that I have enjoyed over the last week or two has been catching up with friends a bit. In the winter time there is little to do around here besides eat and drink. In an effort to embrace winter this year I am really trying to look at the positive features the season has to offer. Eating good food and drinking spirits with my friends is something I can get behind. Obviously, I only have friends who love food as much as I do.

Last night I had a dear friend over for dinner. She and I cozied up on in our warm living room and stuffed ourselves silly with this cassoulet.

It was delicious. Hearty enough to fill my hibernation-mode belly. And it allowed me to turn on the oven and warm the place up a bit.

This recipe comes from my one and only Vegan cookbook. Veganomicon is not the type of book I would normally buy. There are virtually no pictures in it. And to quote the wonderful Alice once again, "How can one possibly read a book with no pictures in it?" I usually stray away from cookbooks without the beautiful photographs of food that I covet and drool over. However, I think that is because most cookbooks rarely have much to offer in the way of conversation with the authors.

Veganomicon has all sorts of great recipes with some of the best descriptions I have seen in a cookbook. It is very conversational and makes you feel as if you are hanging out with the authors themselves while they share their favorite recipes with you. This book made me laugh out loud more than once. How often can you say that about a cookbook?

Cassoulet with biscuit topping
Serves 4
adapted from Veganomicon

I pretty much made this recipe ver batum from the book. With the exception of the leeks, most of the ingredients are all things I normally have on hand any given day so there wasn't much need to substitute. Also, this book is always straightforward in it's methods and descriptions. Why mess with success? Cliche? Yes. True? Another yes.

Another note. Spring for the fresh thyme at the super market. You won't regret it.

For the stew:
2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into half inch dice
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. carrots, peeled and cut into a half inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 (15-oz) can navy beans drained and rinsed (can substitute cannelli)
3 c. vegetable broth
3 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. olive oil
1-2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped (I don't think you can use too much here)
salt and pepper to taste

For the Biscuits:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. plain soy milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance brand)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. You could wait to do this until later...but, I always like an excuse to turn it on in the winter.

Wash and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice. Place them into a small pot and fill with water until they are covered. Place the pot over high heat with a lid. Allow the potatoes to cook in boiling water for about ten minutes or until the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce them with a fork. Once they are done drain them immediately and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking go ahead and chop the rest of the vegetables.

If you have time before the potatoes are done (otherwise, wait and do this while your vegetables are cooking int he next step) go ahead and mix the soy milk and vinegar together and set aside (just do it right in the measuring cup) and set it aside. Them mix the dry ingredients for the biscuits together in a bowl (the flour, baking powder, salt) and set aside.

Whisk the vegetable broth and cornstarch together until it completely dissolves.

Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Saute the leeks, onions, and carrots for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Then add in the garlic, thyme, pepper, and salt and cook for another minute. Then add in the drained potatoes, frozen peas, and vegetable broth mixture. Turn the heat up a bit to bring the stew to a simmer and then lower the heat again. Continue to cook it at a simmer for about another seven minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not cook it for longer than seven minutes. If you are not ready with the biscuits (I wasn't) just turn off the heat until you are ready.

While the stew cooks (or after, for me) work on the biscuits. First, cut the shortening into small pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Using a fork or your fingers work the shortening into the flour until it forms large crumbs (you don't want to overwork it). Then drizzle the soy milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir. Just stir it lightly with a fork, it's fine if there are still a few dry pockets.

Wash and dry your hands. Sprinkle a little bit of flour onto the ball of dough and gently knead it about 10 times, right in the bowl. if the dough is sticking to you hands just sprinkle a little bit more flour onto it.

Set the biscuits aside and check on the stew if you haven't already turned it off. The stew will be slightly thickened when it is done. Add the beans and turn off the heat if you haven't already.

Roll the dough into balls that are about the size of a golf balls, flatten them slightly and place them on top of the stew until the dough is gone.

Place the whole pan into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are just beginning to brown.


  1. I love cassoulete and your vegan style with bicsuit topping sounds great too.


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