Friday, November 27, 2015

Savory Corn Pudding

Every year, as the winter holidays approach, it's interesting - and occasionally confusing - to hear about dishes considered de rigeur at various people's festive meals. Just as sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow or the infamous green bean casserole never appear on my family's table, I'm sure the spanakopita and pastitsio (or Cornish pasties and boozy trifle, for that matter) that show up at our holiday feasts seem incongruous to some people, but it's fun to learn about new dishes, and occasionally take inspiration from them.

Which is exactly how today's recipe came about. I've always been fascinated by regional dishes, particularly the plethora of casseroles - common in the American South - that are virtually unknown/unheard of here in New England. A recent Facebook post about corn pudding caught my attention, but while the accompanying recipe sounded good, it called for tofu, and one of my Thanksgiving guests has trouble with soy. So I defaulted to my usual approach: find a regular/omnivorous/"traditional" recipe and fix it by removing the animal bits. Google brought up a number of options, many requiring more sugar than I find appealing as part of the main course (see above in re: marshmallows), but I finally found a few savory approaches and decided to have a go at them.

Now, all this just happened to coincide with my first shipment of a product the vegan interwebz have been buzzing about for a month or so: Follow Your Heart's VeganEgg. This mixture claims to scramble, bake, make omelets and quiches, and generally behave like its bird-based inspiration in all sorts of recipes. Since my corn pudding recipe prototypes called for eggs - and I'd had good results with Western omelets on this product's maiden voyage - I opted for a straight-up, one-to-one veganization. 

And I'm happy (and thankful) to report that the resulting dish was an unqualified success. Cheesy comfort food, with a nice textural contrast from the corn and a little hit of heat from the cayenne and chili powder, it was gobbled up by my dinner guests,  and is destined to make future appearances. Since I was already embracing the spirit of adventure, I also made my first pecan pie - which was met with equally great enthusiasm - so who knows what surprises Christmas may bring? 

Savory Corn Pudding
~ 2 tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 yellow onion, small dice
~ 1 red bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram 
~ ½ tsp. each: dill, thyme, chili powder, white pepper
~ 5 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk 
~ 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar (I used Daiya)
~ ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
~ ½ tsp. each: dry mustard, cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ 1 tsp. each: Liquid Smoke, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 4 tbsp. Follow Your Heart VeganEgg, whisked with 1 cup ice water
~ ⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
~ Sweet or smoked paprika for garnish

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Melt the margarine in a large, deep skillet and sauté the onion and bell pepper for 5-7 minutes, until softened but not browned. 
~ Stir in the dry seasonings and corn kernels; continue cooking about 5 minutes more.
~ In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cheese, nutritional yeast, mustard powder, cayenne, Liquid Smoke, and Worcestershire sauce over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts and you have a smooth sauce.
~ Add the cheese sauce to corn mixture, and then fold in the prepared Vegan Egg. 
~ Mix well, transfer the whole business to your greased baking dish, and top with a sprinkle of paprika (I used smoked because I love it).
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until puffed and golden. (Keep an eye on it; ovens vary wildly and mine is a bit slow!)
~ Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to set up for at least 20 minutes before serving. This is a great dish to prepare a day in advance and reheat in the microwave or a conventional oven. (If you choose the latter option, be sure to cover the casserole with foil so the top doesn't brown too much.)

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