Saturday, November 19, 2011

Repeat After Me: Mise en Place

I've always enjoyed baking, but cooking ... well, cooking is not my strong suit.  I tend to get overwhelmed in the middle of complicated dishes.  And heaven forbid I try to make multiple hot foods that all need to be done at the same time.  No way.
That said, my love of food is a powerful motivator.  I've worked to overcome my innate inability to multitask in the kitchen.  I have learned to love the mise en place.

I first heard the term watching Top Chef.  Intrigued, I looked it up.  The term refers to the practice of prepping all food and utensils in advance of cooking. 

Huh.  What an idea!

Mise en Place for Seitan Pot Pie
Now, whenever I set out to create a dish using multiple ingredients, I am sure to prepare my mise en place before I start.  It keeps me from burning the onions while I'm chopping carrots, or from having a saute grow cold while I roll out the pastry to enclose it.

When we were dividing up the dishes for our easy Thanksgiving menu, I volunteered to create a vegetarian main dish.  I wanted to stick with American fare and offer something special enough to stand alongside the traditional roasted bird.  But, again, we wanted to keep it easy.
I promise you this dish really is easy.  It has a fair number of ingredients, and there are some steps involved.  But if you prep your ingredients before you begin, it comes together with relatively little effort.  What's more, the recipe is forgiving ... you can substitute the vegetables of your choice, and as long as you don't overbake the pot pie, it will likely turn out delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Seitan Pot Pie

1 – 8 oz. package of seitan, sliced thin and
patted dry with paper towels
3 Tbs. canola oil - divided
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 lb cubed potatoes
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary (or 3/4 tsp. dried)
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
3 c. vegetable broth/stock
1 c. red wine
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 c. frozen peas
½ c. chopped fresh parsley

1 - 16.3 oz. tube refrigerator biscuits (I used reduced fat buttermilk)

Heat 1 1/2 Tbs. canola oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high until it shimmers.  Add the seitan and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned (3 – 5 minutes).  Remove with slotted spoon (put it in a large mixing bowl).  Add remaining oil to pot, reduce heat to medium, add leeks to pot, sprinkle with salt, and cook covered about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook covered until they give off liquid.  Add carrots, potatoes, thyme, and rosemary.  Cook covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.  Remove all vegetables to the big bowl.

Stir together butter and flour to make a paste.  Preheat oven to 375.

Add the red wine to the pot and boil until reduced to about ½ a cup.  Add broth and bring to a brisk simmer.  Whisk in butter/flour mixture.  Simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened (about 3-5 minutes).  Add seitan and vegetables, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  At the very end, stir in parsley.

Spray a small casserole dish with non-stick spray (I use an 8 x 10 dish that's about 2 1/2 inches deep).  Transfer stew to pan (you want the gravy to come up to the top of the vegies and such, but not cover them, so don't be afraid to leave some of the liquid in the pot) and top with refrigerator biscuits.  Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes (until the biscuits are nicely browned).   Allow the casserole to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.


Wendy (aka Annie Knox) is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook.


Christmas Cookie Contest!

Have you heard about our fantastic Christmas Cookie Contest?  Here's how it works:

To enter, send your favorite recipe to Krista (KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com).
We'll choose 10 finalists, recipes that we'll bake and post here on the blog.
Then you, our readers, will choose the overall winner!

What does that winner win?  A fabulous collection of cookie decorating supplies, that's what!

Pastel Sanding Sugar
Primary Sanding Sugar

Powdered Food Colors
Cute Flower Cookie Stencils


  1. All right, I'll admit it: I have no idea what seitan is. Is it related to tofu, or something completely different? Can you substitute chicken for it?

    I love to cook, but I often wish I had someone to do all that chopping for me (under my eagle eye) and someone to wash up after me. If I could have only one, I'd pick the dishwasher.

  2. Sheila, seitan is also known as "mock duck" or "wheat meat" -- it's a protein sub made with wheat gluten (so definitely no celiac-friendly). You could substitute chicken or beef (seitan, to me, tastes more like beef ... but that's really a function of what it's cooked in).

    For this dish, take advantage of pre-diced foods (note that bag of pre-sliced mushrooms). For our actual thanksgiving, I'm making this in shepherd's pie form (using parsnips in the stew and subbing mashed potatoes for the biscuit top). It's a pretty flexible recipe!

  3. Wow, shepherd's pie for a veggie dish for Thanksgiving. makes perfect sense.

    Me, I love to save a turkey breast to make a next day shepherd's pie (mix sweet potatoes and white potatoes) for one of those ultimate leftover dishes...

    I also add a can of creamed corn to sweeten the savory dish up a bit. Great idea, We just got invited to a BIG T-day dinner and I am assigned a side dish. I am lobbying for dressing (filled with chorizo sausage, just can't leave out the meat), but if I am assigned a veggie dish will give this a whirl!

  4. I bet this would be every bit as delicious with chicken instead of the seitan, Wendy. I have friends who always wonder what to make for their vegetarian family members on holidays. I'm sure they're not the only ones with that problem! Thanks for offering such a lovely solution!

    ~ Krista

  5. Dave, love the idea of mixing the sweet and white potatoes! To make our shepherd's pie a little more special, we sometimes add some cashews to the filling. And to make it easy, I use a bag of frozen "steam'n'mash" potatoes (that cook in the microwave).

    Krista, this would be great with chicken or beef - just sub the appropriate broth to the mix. Or, heck, leave the protein out entirely for a scrumptious side. :)