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Third time’s a charm (vegetable cobbler)

January 31, 2011

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be telling you about the black bean soup, or salsa, or apple tart Amanda and I made together a week ago. But can I tell you about this cobbler first? Please? Given that your only course of action is to yell at your computer screen days after I write this entry, I’m going to take the current silence in my apartment as your tacit approval. You’re all so kind.

I have stalked this cobbler ever since it appeared on my radar a few months ago. I could never quite get it the way I wanted it, until this week. Yes, this week I found a way to merge all the positives of two different recipes and the madness in my brain to come up with this vegetable success. A crisp, fresh medley of red, green and yellow vegetables nestled in flavor-infused potatoes and topped with little pillows of bread. Seriously, it’s divine.

The first recipe was also a hit, but called for things like soy sauce, cornstarch and dill – all things I’m not entirely fond of. There’s a place for each of them, but I didn’t want that place to be in my cobbler. Version 2 was in response to the holiday conundrum presented by my suddenly vegan little brother. He’s 8 and in SpongeBob t-shirts one day, and next thing I know he spends 24 hours at college in the Northwest and all of a sudden he’s a dairy-eschewing lumberjack. Sigh. For those of you keeping track at home, that brings us to: anti-mushroom vegan + cheese-loving pescatarian (= Holiday disaster?). Thankfully I didn’t have to throw the two picky men into that mess of an equation, since Mom cooked for them.

I thought I found the answer in a vegan pot pie, until I realized the pie crust wasn’t part of the recipe. Wait, isn’t that the hardest part to make vegan? I was fairly confident in my abilities to ad lib a mess of vegetables, but not so much excluding the main ingredients from a pastry. And sadly, even in hippie oasis California, suburbia’s supermarkets don’t keep vegan pie crusts in stock. The only thing I could find was a vegan, gluten-free pie crust mix. I knew that could only spell disaster and after I added the water, my fears were confirmed. The vegan GF mix never made its way to the plate, although we did test its oven performance for fun. I’m pretty sure it’s still in there a month later and still looking as white as the 67” of snow Connecticut has gotten this winter.

So I returned to what I knew in the original great dumplings and left Brian’s portion biscuit-less. Sorry man, it’s not my fault that you’ve chosen to give up the most tasty part of the food pyramid. Brian liked the end result though, and I was in awe of its use of mashed potato as a thickener for vegetable pies. It’s genius. The mashed taters needed to be toned down a little to keep the dish from being balled starch on top of mushed starch with a tiny corn kernel or two thrown in, but still – genius.

And now, after all that, I have my cobbler recipe. I had a feeling it would work as I planned, but made it all again just to be sure. For your sake, of course. Okay, maybe it was for my own benefit too. Did I mention how much I love my “get-me-through-January” savory cobbler?

Vegetable Cobbler
Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake and VegKitchen.

Vegetable Mix
3 small potatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon mustard
5-6 cups chopped vegetables*
1 tomato, chopped
2.5 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons flour

* I used 2 carrots, 4 stalks celery, 1 head broccoli, 1 large zucchini, 1 large summer squash and 1/2 cup corn. Any mix of vegetables you have on hand is great though.  I used mushrooms the first time in addition to some of the usual suspects and will definitely try to have them on hand the next time I make this.

Biscuits
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Boil potatoes until tender. If you have a stock box and it’s getting full, go ahead and make stock and boil your potatoes with the stock. If not, just boil in salted water. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Heat oil in skillet. Cook onion for 6 minutes, add garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add salt, thyme and mustard and cook an additional minute.

Add carrots, celery and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. During this period slowly add the rest of your veggies – the slower a veggie cooks the earlier you add it. The goal is for the veggies to be tender with just a bit of bite left in them. I added the zucchini and squash at about the midway point and the corn and tomato with about a minute to go.

Mash one of the potatoes in a small bowl. Dice remaining potatoes into about 3/4-inch cubes. Stir potatoes into mixture. If it’s still a little bit too soupy add in 2 tablespoons flour.

Throw vegetable mixture into a 9×13 greased baking dish.
To make your own buttermilk, add the juice of half a lemon to one cup of milk. Let this sit out for about 5 minutes and voila – buttermilk! In a mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients for the biscuits. In a small bowl whisk together butter and buttermilk. Immediately pour into dry ingredient mix. Add thyme. Combine with as few strokes as possible. Dough should be very light and airy.

Scoop biscuit batter over vegetables in equal mounds. If you have a 3 tbsp. scooper, it’s perfect for this purpose. Sprinkle additional thyme over dough.

Bake for 25 to 30 minute, or until biscuits are golden brown. Eat immediately.

Cobbler stores well for up to a week in the fridge.

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