Chicken-less Stew w/Spelt-Rosemary Biscuits
Stew adapted from Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey by United Poultry Concerns
I found the original recipe many years ago in a United Poultry Concerns booklet, and have tinkered with it over time, and below is how I’m currently preparing it. It’s thick, chunky and comforting on a cold day, or any day you need an extra little bit of love. You can serve it over brown rice, mashed potatoes, or my favorite: herbed biscuits—see recipe below. The biscuits are adapted from a ratty handout I received while in pastry school ten years ago in San Francisco. I have no idea who the original author is, so lets just say it’s adapted from Tante Marie’s Cooking School (which is no longer in operation, sadly). The biscuit recipe is…. a bit of a tutorial (or a goddam novel; you decide). I’m sorry it’s so long, but now you’ll know how to make biscuits.
One other very important point I want to make here: while I usually cook on the fly and gather ingredients as I go, for this particular recipe, prep all the ingredients first—you’ll thank me later. Measure, peel, chop everything for the stew (you can do the biscuits while the stew cooks) before you start heating up the soup pot. While in theory, you are supposed to always do this (it’s called “mise en place”—or “everything in it’s place”), this is one of the few times I seriously recommend doing it.
Ingredients for the Chicken-less Stew:
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
12 oz extra firm tofu
1 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
dash of salt
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
6 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup tamari
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
6 shiitake mushrooms, steps removed, and caps sliced (white button mushrooms will also work)
salt & pepper
optional 4-6 dino kale leaves, spines removed and roughly chopped
Like I said in the head note, gather up all your ingredients first. Cut the extra firm tofu into quarter-inch cubes. Dice the onion and celery, measure out the spices and put them in a small bowl, then measure out the flour and nutritional yeast and put into another bowl. Measure out your veggie broth (that might be putting six cups of of water into a bowl and throwing in some bullion cubes—that’s fine. The water and bullion cubes will heat and dissolve once they are all in the pot), tamari and brown rice vinegar. Peel and chop the carrots, potatoes, mushrooms—and kale if you are using.
Okay. Now that you are all prepped and ready, let’s cook! Heat up a large soup pot. Add the sesame oil and turn the heat to medium-high. Sauté your tofu cubes. You want them kinda brown, so this will take a few minutes. Then add in the onions and celery and sprinkle with the salt. You may need a splash more of oil. After about two or three minutes, toss in your thyme, sage, rosemary and garlic powder mixture. Stir the veggies and tofu for about four to six minutes. You want the spice blend to form a thin coating on the vegetables and tofu. If the heat is too high and things start to get a bit sticky at the bottom, deglaze the pot by adding a splash of white wine or broth. (You do have white wine at hand?) Stir and get all those delicious sticky bits up.
Next dump in the flour and the nutritional yeast and stir for another minute or so. Now pour in the vegetable broth, tamari and vinegar; then dump in the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms.
Stir for a minute, turn the heat to medium-low, and let the stew gently bubble away. Let cook for about 30-40 minutes. When the stew is nice and thick, taste, and then season with a bit of salt and pepper and turn off the heat. If you are adding the kale, now is the time (yes, with the heat off). Add your greens (chard or curly kale work well, too—but not collards; they take too long cook), put the lid on the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes then stir. And now the stew is ready.
As the stew cooks, you can move on to the biscuits….
Ingredients for the Rosemary-Spelt Biscuits:
1 cup soy milk (or another plant milk of your choosing)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 cup Earth Balance (1 stick), chilled
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
Measure the plant milk into a glass measuring cup, then add the the apple cider vinegar. Let those two mingle together as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a medium bowl, measure out the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the rosemary and whisk lightly just to combine everything.
At this point, get your space ready. You want a clean bit of counter space (or on your cutting board) to knead the biscuits. Get our whatever your going to use to cut your biscuits—a water or pint glass will work fine if you don’t have an actual biscuit cutter. Put roughly a quarter cup of all-purpose flour aside to use to dust the counter when you are ready to knead. At this time, also pull out whatever type of sheet or baking pan you are going to use. Put a sheet of parchment paper on it and keep the pan close by (the last thing you want is to have your biscuits ready to go and realize your forgot to get your sheet pan out! Now you have to wash your hands and dig around for the proper pan!)
Unwrap the stick of Earth Balance (see the notes for alternatives), and slice it in half long-ways. Rotate the stick one turn to your right (90 degrees), and slice in half long-ways again. This will create four long slices and now you can cut the stick into little cubes (see pic below).
Dump the cubes into your bowl of flour, and with either a pastry cutter or a fork, and cut the EB into the flour. (Basically, you’re squashing the fat into the flour with the fork, cutting it up into much smaller pieces. You want the flour to look like it’s full of little, sandy pebbles of fat when you’re finished. You can do this with your hands as well; just smush the EB with your fingers until you get the same result.)
Make a well in the flour and pour in the cup of plant milk + ACV mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix until just combined—it’s important not to over-mix. Once you’ve reached this point, take some of the flour you set aside earlier and sprinkle it on your work surface. Turn out the biscuit dough onto your surface—it’s okay if some parts are still really wet and other parts are dry. Sprinkle a bit of the extra flour over the top of the dough and knead the dough roughly 2-6 times—but not more. It’s totally okay for the dough to be a shaggy mess! Pat the mass into a roughly 1/2 - 3/4 inch-high circle. At this point, if you want to get our your rolling pin and do a couple gentle passes over the top of your dough to make the tops even, you can; but you don’t have to. Just pat them out into a circle, and go from there. (Whatever you do, don’t roll them into a goddamn pancake!)
Next take your glass or biscuit cutter and cut out however many biscuits your can get out of your initial circle of dough. Place those on your baking sheet. Now, fold the dough over onto itself, and pat it out to make another circle, and cut more biscuits. Keep doing this until you have just enough dough to make one last sad, misshapen biscuit.
Slide the tray of biscuits into your preheated oven, and bake for 12-14 minutes. Serve hot with the stew, or cut in half and slather with Earth Balance, agave and/or jam.
Use whatever oil you have on hand if you don’t have toasted sesame oil—but look for it next time you are at the grocery store (or Asian market). I love using it to brown tofu, as well as other plant-based proteins, as it adds a subtle toasty/umami flavor.
If you have a bottle of open white wine laying around, you can substitute anywhere from a half to a whole cup for the the vegetable broth. This will add a bit of zing to the stew.
You can substitute A/P flour for the brown flour, and apple cider vinegar for the brown rice vinegar in the stew.
You can substitute whole wheat flour for the spelt flour if you don’t have it handy; or just use all A/P flour.
If you don’t want to use Earth Balance as the fat for the biscuits, use whatever vegan butter you like, or coconut oil works as well—just make sure it’s not solid; not melted. Measure it out in a mixing cup and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill it.
For information on United Poultry Concerns, click here.
Stew serves: 6-8
Biscuits serve 8-10