Saturday, November 22, 2014

Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks

Just in time for Thanksgiving, "Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks" (page 370) presented me with a fun challenge - how to prepare the 'crispy leeks' portion of the recipe without using ½ cup oil to fry them in. But first things first: preparing fresh green beans (trim and cook in boiling salted water); sautéing garlic, shallots, fresh mushrooms, with herbs and spices; thickening the sautéed veggies with a roux of flour and sherry; simmering all this in broth until it thickens; adding soy creamer and the prepared green beans to this mixture. Now you've got the 'Green Bean Bake' portion of the dish. 

(Note: when I try to use flour as a thickening agent in a skillet of sautéed veggies, I usually end up with a lumpy mess, especially when cooking oil free. To avoid this, I usually add whatever liquids will be used in the dish to my blender, along with the flour, and whirl on low to a smooth consistency before adding to the skillet. It may not be as "gourmet" as creating a roux, but I find I get much better results with no loss of flavor. In this recipe, I blended the flour, sherry, and veggie broth (mushroom flavored broth was an excellent choice here!) before adding to the hot skillet of sautéed veggies and was rewarded with a rich, flavorful, and lump-free mixture.) 

Now, for the challenge of preparing the crispy leeks. The instructions ask you to cut one leek in half lengthwise, into two long this strips. This didn't seem right to me, and I even wondered if it was a typo. Instead, I opted to slice the leek from the top, creating several small rings, and working my way down to the tough green part before I stopped. I ended up with about 10 small "onion rings", which I further separated into smaller rings. I put these rings into a bowl of soymilk to soak for about 10 minutes. I then placed the seasoning mix of flour, salt, and pepper into a small brown paper bag (like a lunch bag). I removed the onion rings with a slotted spoon, placed them in the bag of seasoned flour, shook them up good, then spread them on a parchment lined baking sheet. I baked these at 375 for about 30 minutes, checking at 10 minute intervals to make sure they weren't burning. When they were browned and crispy, I took them out of the oven and used them for the casserole topping. 

This dish did turn out to be a little time and labor intensive, but if you are looking for a delicious, and impressive, vegan alternative to the standard Green Bean Casserole that shows up every year around this time, it could be well worth your effort! 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the shallots and garlic; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid. (Also, see my note above about incorporating the flour as a thickening agent in the skillet.)
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour when for thickening the vegetable mixture and for preparing the leeks instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • See my method above for creating the crispy leeks, as opposed to frying them in oil.

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