Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scalloped Potatoes and Vegetables

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

~ Thomas Hood

I find November remarkable for the stripped-down quality of the light, and for its overall spareness: the leaves have fallen from the trees and been (mostly) raked away, the branches and the ground are bare, and everything seems to be waiting for the first snowfall to shift things definitively from fall to winter. There's a stark beauty about this time of year that puts me in a pleasurably moody, Brontë-esque frame of mind; hence the photo of Top Withens, the ruined Yorkshire farmhouse whose windswept situation has long been associated with the setting for Wuthering Heights. As the text tells us, "'Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed, in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there, at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun." (How awesome is that? Talk about atmosphere!)

So, with the moors on my mind, and winter drawing on apace, it's back to the comfort food chez nous. I made this for an unusually outrageous (even for us) weekend brunch, but it would make an excellent holiday side dish, or a substantial main course for a more ordinary dinner. I hereby issue my standard disclaimer that this is A. seriously, er, "fortifying," and B. makes a lot, but it's also the sort of thing that reheats nicely, so why not make a huge pan of it on Sunday, and feed off it for a few days? With all this vegetabley, potatoey, cheezy goodness going on, it's hard to imagine that even a twisted misanthrope like Heathcliff could have stayed grumpy when presented with a plateful; if only Nelly Dean had left off gossiping long enough to bestir herself in the kitchen, things might have ended differently for him and Cathy!

Scalloped Potatoes and Vegetables
The Filling
~ 1 package tempeh bacon, cooked and crumbled (or a batch of your favorite home-made version)
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: marjoram, tarragon, rosemary
~ Black pepper to taste
~ 1 10 oz. package fresh spinach, chopped
~ 6-7 large baking potatoes, sliced (as Mr Creosote would say) wafer thin

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat, about 2 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and seasonings, stir, and cook 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are fragrant and have released most of their liquid.
~ Stir in the chopped spinach by handfuls, mixing with each addition until just wilted, then stir in the crumbled tempeh bacon.
~ Set aside while you make...

The Cheezy Sauce
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ Black pepper
~ Pinch nutmeg
~ 4 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
~ 2 cups grated Daiya cheddar (or other vegan cheese)
~ Paprika for garnish

~ In a saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over low heat, then add the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook over low heat for a minute or two, stirring to make a roux.
~ Gradually add the soy milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, then add the yogurt and Daiya. Cook, stirring, 5-7 minutes, until thickened and smooth.
~ Reserve 1.5 cups of the sauce, and add the rest to the vegetable mixture, making sure everything is well combined.

The Assembly
~ Arrange 1/3 of the thinly sliced potatoes in the bottom of your greased casserole, making sure there are no gaps.
~ Ladle half the vegetable mixture over the potatoes, then repeat with another layer of potatoes, and the remaining vegetables, ending with a layer of potatoes.
~ Pour the reserved sauce over the potatoes, smoothing and pressing down slightly with a spatula, to make sure the sauce oozes between the layers a bit.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Remove the foil, sprinkle the top with paprika, then return to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, until browned.
~ Allow to set up (about 10-15 minutes) before serving.


  1. I believe you mean "him and Cathy," but aside from that, a great post, and an even better plate of delicious podge! I am fortunate enough to know that there's still some in the fridge.

  2. Oops - duly corrected, professor! (Can I make it up via a huge plate of cheezy potatoes, perchance?)