Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I treated myself to a day off from work today, in order to take a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. It was the first cooking class I've ever taken, but it was so much fun I'm sure it won't be my last.
The class was "Winter Vegetarian Casseroles," and in about four hours we learned to make EIGHT different dishes. Three of the recipes in the course included cheese, but vegan cheese could easily be substituted, and hey, five out of eight recipes being vegan ain't bad. Strangely, we learned to make enchiladas that were topped with a tofu sour cream, but they had cheese inside. If you don't mind the cheese, then you probably don't care about tofu sour cream, but whatever. The best part of the class, of course, was that after all the dishes were ready we got to sit down and taste them - with wine served too! It was like Thanksgiving all over again. Two glasses of wine with lunch, now that's what I call a day off.
This dish, from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, was one of the quickest and easiest to make, which was good because after all that cooking earlier today (or was it the wine?) I didn't have much energy to make anything complicated. All I did was thinly slice two medium onions, and saute them in a 1/4 cup of olive oil along with a couple teaspoons brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Once the onions were softened, I added three cups of sauerkraut, two smashed garlic cloves, about a teaspoon of caraway seeds, and two bay leaves. After that was combined, I spread bite-sized pieces of Tofurkey Kielbasa (one package of four sausages, cut into one-inch bites) over the top. In class, we actually made this with one pound of seitan, but to be honest I found the seitan a bit bland. The kielbasa was just right for this recipe. On top of all this I poured 12 oz. of a dark Belgian ale. At Whole Foods I actually found a Green's Dubbel Dark Ale, which is a gluten-free dark Belgian ale made from millet, buckwheat, rice, and sorghum. I wasn't looking for a gluten-free beer, but I thought it sounded interesting so I wanted to try it. And, lucky day, it's officially vegan-friendly on Barnivore . (Did you know not all alcoholic beverages are vegan? Barnivore is a great site with an extensive database of which brands are vegan and which ones are not.) Once you pour the beer over everything, you raise the heat and bring it to a boil. Then you cover the dish and bake it for an hour at 300 degrees.
This dish would be great with any kind of potatoes or root vegetables, but I opted to go a little lighter and just steamed some green beans and served them my standard way: tossed with a bit of Earth Balance, some lemon pepper, and a dash of Bragg's Liquid Aminos.
The sausages and sauerkraut come out of the oven incredibly tender, fragrant, and full of flavor. All of the strong flavors of the ingredients just mellow out and meld together in an incredibly satisfying way. The sauerkraut still has a slight tang to it, but the braising adds a touch of sweetness to it too. If you like beer, you'll definitely like this dish. And if you don't like beer, then, well, what's wrong with you?