Polenta! In Dinner Pie.

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Polenta!  I love it so.

I love it enough to babysit a pot of boiling cornmeal and water for half an hour to get a creamy, tasty finished product, a finished product that’s hard not to eat right out of the pan.  So when I stumbled upon the Tuscan-Style Shepherd’s Pie in the Forks Over Knives cookbook, how could I not make it?  It does, after all, declare that “creamy polenta stands in for mashed potatoes” as the topping.  (Not that I don’t also like potatoes, but come on.  Polenta!)

I never ate shepherd’s pie when I was an omni.  Since going vegan, though, I’ve tried a bunch of recipes for it and enjoyed them all.  The first one I made was an old-school pie using TVP from The Clueless Vegetarian, a book I relied on heavily in my first steps toward eating plant-based.  But there have been several others, including a neat one that used sweet potatoes for the topping and, of course, this really amazing one from Delectable Planet that’s full of seitan and gravy.

The Forks Over Knives recipe re-imagines this tasty comfort food using white beans and a few basic veggies like carrots and celery.  I think mushrooms or peas would go well, too; mushrooms in particular would lend a nice chewy texture to the filling.  Speaking of which, the sauce part of the filling becomes oddly thick as this cooks despite being composed only of vegetable broth and herbs.  You’d think it would need something like flour or cornstarch to get that texture, but lo and behold, when it cooked up, it was full of gravy goodness.

tuscan-style vegan shepherd's pie

This is a huge “pie,” guys.  Like, huge enough that it barely fit in the casserole dish and I had a hard time getting it out of the oven.  I highly recommend using something with handles–or a bigger pan–to avert any potential disasters with a pie this loaded.  Because in addition to making a ton of food, this is way, way too awesome to waste by accidentally dropping it on the floor.

One of the things that I love about recipes from books like the Forks Over Knives cookbook and the Happy Herbivore series is that even the heartiest ones don’t leave you feeling heavy.  Even though this shepherd’s pie had a gravy-style broth and included chunks of potatoes, it had a very fresh taste.  The creamy texture, thanks in part to a couple cans of white beans, gave it a classic “comfort food” feeling without any greasy aftertaste.  I swear, the more I cook without oil, the more I love it.

vegan tuscan shepherd's pie with green beans

And, of course, the polenta made a lovely topping.  It got just a bit of a crust as it baked, which was delicious, while the underside stayed soft.  I’ll be filing this recipe in my mental “keeper” file for chilly days and whenever I’m having a hankering for polenta.  Next time I might just try it with some mushrooms and peas added, too.

What’s your favorite “new take” on a classic dish?

About The Author

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of Toastmasters International and currently serves as part of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read, play silly card games and knit socks.

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1 comment for “Polenta! In Dinner Pie.

  1. reducefootprints@gmail.com'
    04/19/2013 at 8:20 PM

    OMGoodness … I never thought of using polenta on a Shepard’s pie. That sounds so delicious! I’m definitely trying it. Thank you!

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