Cooking French Food for Your Vegetarian

pixabella-Red-Stylised-Heart-with-Smaller-HeartsHappy February!  It’s soon to be Valentines Day, and I usually go all out and make a really romantic meal for the Hubby.  I’d love to hear how you, my dear readers celebrate your significant others, or even celebrate yourselves for a special day!

You all know, I have a vegetarian husband, for whom I will try to cook anything vegetarian style.  I have however never really been successful with the full blooded classic French dishes.  Mainly, I am half successful in creating something that has the meat replaced by something processed to be like meat, or by substituting something else for the meat.  He always says he likes it, and I am sure he does, but it always feel like I am cheating!  Flash forward to today.  I was trolling around the usual cooking sites I look at for food inspiration, and I came upon this gem, Mushroom Bourguignon (yes all those ‘g’s” are supposed to be there.)

The recipe carries all the French classical steps, braising, reduction of liquids, the mirepoix*, but it is simple, and really delicious.  For the past several years, I have raffled off a meal at work, for our internal fundraising campaign, and Beef Bourguignon is always on offer.  Perhaps I’ll change it this year and offer this dish too!

Mushroom Bourguignon

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1lb Portobello mushrooms, stems cut off and discarded, mushrooms cut into 2 in cubes
  • 2lbs white or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut on a diagonal
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have any)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups pearl onions, peeled (these are optional)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium.  I used my cast iron Dutch oven, even heat makes a huge diference.  Add both types of mushrooms, sauté until lightly browned.  They may give off some liquid, but at this point that’s good.  Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until you begin to smell the garlic.  The aim here is to cook but not to brown the vegetables.  Add thyme, red wine, tomato paste and stock and stir gently, until the tomato paste has dissolved into the liquid. Put the lid on the pan and allow this to cook at a low heat for 20 minutes.  After that time, take the lid off and raise the heat up to high and cook until liquid has reduced, about 15 minutes.  It should be reduced by half, and taken on a more syrupy or rich consistency.  Add the optional pearl onions and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until they’re starting to turn translucent and softer.

Here we use a classic sauce thickening technique.  Mix the cornstarch and cold water together in a small dish until all the cornstarch is dissolved.  Cornstarch will make the sauce thicker and glossier than flour would, it’s more gravy like than stew like, if that makes sense.  Bring the pan to a boil, and add the cornstarch mixture to it.  Once again, the alchemy of cooking shows itself, you’ll see the sauce thicken and darken slightly.  At this point, you’re finished.

Generally I would serve this dish on egg noodles, but you can serve it with boiled or mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, whatever you love.

And remember to love the vegetarian you’re serving this to!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Mirepoix is a classical French flavor base of minced onion, carrot and celery.  You can not duplicate the taste of celery, and I urge you to add just a stalk, even if you don’t like it!  If not, try a pinch of celery seed, trust me you won’t be disappointed with the result.

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