Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan Mofo Comfort Food: Creamy Tofu Wild Rice Casserole

tofu wild rice casserole

I grew up in the seventies and eighties, a time when canned mushroom soup reigned supreme.

If you ask most people who grew up in that era, they can name at least one dish they ate at the family dinner table involving canned cream of mushroom soup as a main ingredient. I can name two. One of them was a dish of what I think were egg noodles and homemade meatballs, topped with a mushroom soup-based sauce. I remember liking it. But the second dish, I remember loving. It was a chicken, mushroom and wild rice casserole. I loved it so much that, even after I tried to go vegetarian in high school, I would still eat the casserole whenever my mom made it. It was actually good enough for me to ignore the bird parts within. Eventually, though, I became an actual vegetarian and stopped eating any meat at all, no matter how delicious I remembered it being.

I've been trying, on and off, to make a vegan version of the dish for a while. At first I thought I could just veganize my mom's recipe, but that didn't work. There was definitely something lost in the translation. It's hard to find vegan cream of mushroom soup, and when I did find some, it was of the virtuous, organic, healthy variety. All fine and good, but lacking in the intense 1982 taste of the standard non-vegan variety. That, along with the generally bland "no chicken" soup stock and the how-will-this-behave-when-heated? mystery of vegan sour cream made for a disastrous interpretation. Back to the drawing board.

tofu wild rice casserole

What needed to happen, I discovered, was more of an interpretation and less of a copy. I needed to pinpoint what I liked about the dish and work from that, using the kind of ingredients I'd normally cook with.

Success! Success-o-rama, actually. I had the same reaction to this vegan version of the casserole that I used to have when my mom made the chickeny one. I had multiple helpings, and then hoped that there was enough left over for lunch the next day. There was. There was actually enough left over for two lunches, and I found myself standing in front of the fridge holding both containers of it in my hands, wondering if I should bring both for lunch, just in case I wanted two helpings. I didn't. You have to stop somewhere.

So really, you should make this. The recipe may look long, but none of its components are complicated, and it comes together fairly quickly. It is comfort food at its finest. Warming, tasty, creamy, flling. It might even make you feel like a kid again.


Creamy Tofu Wild Rice Casserole

2 cups uncooked rice (a wild rice/brown rice blend works the best)
4 cups vegetable soup stock

1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, chopped small
1 medium carrot, chopped small
1 stalk of celery, chopped small
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup cashews, ground finely in a food processor or blender
1/2 block silken tofu (approximately 1/2 cup)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
tsp of salt
a couple grinds of fresh pepper

1 block firm tofu (approximately 1 pound) cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
a few shakes of salt and pepper

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Bring the soup stock to a boil, then add the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Let cook until all liquid is absorbed.

-While that's happening, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add leek and mushrooms. Let cook until the leeks start to become transparent, then add carrots, celery, sage and thyme. Cover, and let cook until all vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

-In a food processor or blender grind cashews if you haven't already. Then add the silken tofu, nutritional yeast, 3 tbsp olive oil.

-Process until smooth, then slowly add the water. You're shooting for a mixture that has the consistency of cream of mushroom soup. If you need to add more water, go ahead.

-Season with salt and pepper.

-Toss the firm tofu with olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, then saute over medium-high heat until the tofu starts to brown.

-Mix rice, vegetables, and tofu in a large casserole dish, then add the sauce and mix well until everything is coated.

-Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. If you'd like a crusty, browned top layer, take the lid off and turn the oven to broil for the final five minutes of cooking.

Serves four to six people.


tofu wild rice casserole

p.s. I think this is even gluten-free! Can someone more versed in gluten-free-ness correct me if I'm wrong?



Erin said...

Sounds fantastic! My mom used to make a baked chicken dish with cream of mushroom soup that I would love to recreate.

Sarah B @ Bake + Bike said...

Yum, I'd definitely bring two servings of that for lunch, hehe.

I also used to have a fondness for canned cream of mushroom soup - I remember my roommate making mac & cheese with it once and it was strangely delicious.

vegmers said...

There were lots of cream of mushroom soup casserole's around our house too. :) I think I'll give this a go in the next little while. Thanks!

tweal said...

Yep it definitely is gluten free! Isn't it great when you're able to replicate a delicious childhood memory?

Jacqueline said...

We never had a dish like this at home, but I wish we had. I am completely won over. Now my problem, I have all the ingredients except for the yeast and we are snowed in so I have to think of something else to add instead. I am veggie rather than vegan, is there anything you could suggest? I haven't cooked with nutritional yeast, so I can't think of what to replace it with.

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Jacqueline: Snowed in! Wow! I admit I kind of like it when that happens, though only if cosy and warm and entertained.

The nutritional yeast gives the sauce a bit of flavor and some of the creamy-ness, though in this recipe it's more just there to boost the flavour. I would suggest maybe using soup stock instead of the water in the sauce and also maybe adding a couple teaspoons of curry powder. Sometimes nut. yeast is used instead of parmesan cheese, but I don't think that would go in this case. Good luck! And I hope you're shoveled out in good time.

Sarah S. said...

This is my favorite of your MoFo 2010 recipes, fantastic!

Selina said...

yum! yum! love the Hello Kitty bowl.

'col said...

I...think I might have to make this, even though I am not vegan, just because it sounds awesome. AWESOME.

Eve Love said...

i need a meal like this right now. yummy,looks so perfectly comforting.

Anonymous said...

I made this for dinner last night and it was AMAZING!

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Wow! That's great to hear. I make it quite often myself now and always really love it. :)