All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015
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OK – this one takes a few steps but all are easy & you end up with a GIGANTIC mound of all things savory & Thanksgivingy! It is a bread course, sweet potato/squash dish, creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes & chicken courses – all rolled into one. You can sub out the ingredients to suit your tastes. This is basically an enclosed shepherd’s pie & is as versatile at shepherd’s pie is.
**PLEASE NOTE** – transferring this tart from the cooking sheet onto a serving platter might prove VERY tricky. It will be very heavy – and the warmer it is when you try to transfer it – the more delicate that procedure will be. It would SUCK to put all the work in – only to break it when you are ready to serve it. If you don’t have two very large spatulas – and maybe an assistant – perhaps consider cooking this on something you can also serve it on. Surrounding it with leafy kale (or other greens) at the base & a few cranberries & it will look festive & spare you the trauma of transferring it to a platter. SERIOUSLY consider baking & serving from the same piece. I am devastated just imagining what a failed transfer would do to my life – and I don’t want that for you.
Thanksgiving Vegan Torta Rustica with Creamed Spinach, Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes & Sweet Potato-Butternut Squash Puree
Feeds 8 easily
for the soft tart dough
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
8 ounces vegan butter
3/4 cup silken tofu – pureed (I just smashed it all up with a fork)
1/3 cup vegan milk
for the creamed spinach
1 small onion or large shallot – diced
1 lb fresh spinach
2 (9 oz) packages vegan chicken (I highly recommend Beyond Meat brand. Best on the market!) – cubed
4 oz vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup vegan milk
4 slices vegan cheese (I used the Chao below)
for the scalloped potatoes
2-3 medium potatoes – peeled & cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
2 TBS vegan butter
2 TBS flour
2 cups vegan milk
7 oz vegan cheese (I used that Daiya below)
1 cup panko or other bread crumbs
for the sweet potato-butternut squash puree
1 butternut squash – peeled & cubed
1 large sweet potato – peeled & cubed
4 TBS vegan butter
Pinch of nutmeg
PARCHMENT PAPER for cooking
Vegan egg wash – small but equal parts agave nectar – soy milk – olive oil
GARNISH – kale (or other leafy greens) and fresh cranberries – to arrange around the tart.
for the soft tart dough
By food processor: Combine flour, salt & butter in a food processor using a metal blade. Process with short pulses until the mixture is crumbly. Add tofu with short pulses. Add milk, gradually, with short pulses until it begins to clump and – eventually – orbit as a ball inside the food processor. You might need a little more flour. When the dough is formed – it will be very soft. Gather it into a ball & wrap it tightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour but up to 3 days. When ready to roll it out bring it back to room temperature and flour a work surface to facilitate handling.
By hand: combine flour & salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center & add the butter and the smashed silken tofu. Lightly blend the butter & tofu with fingertips. With a knife or pastry blade, cut the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture. Gradually, add the milk – tossing with a fork until the dough comes together. The dough will be very soft. Add more flour if it is too wet. Gather it into a ball & wrap it tightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour but up to 3 days. When ready to roll it out bring it back to room temperature and flour a work surface to facilitate handling.
for the scalloped potatoes
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a stock pot & whisk in the flour & a little S&P. Heat until it just begins to turn golden then slowly add the milk – letting it thicken before you add more. When all the milk is incorporated & it is still sorta thick – melt in the cheese. Season with salt & pepper. Toss with the sliced potatoes & place in a greased casserole dish. Top with panko or bread crumbs & cook for 45-60 minutes or until it is bubbling & the crumbs are browned. Set aside.
for the creamed spinach & chicken
Heat a TBS of olive oil in a saute pan & cook the onions until soft. Add the spinach & let it wilt – then add the cream cheese & milk. Heat until the cheese melts & you have a thick & creamy spinach. Season with S&P & toss the chicken in & stir. Set aside.
for the sweet potato-butternut puree
Boil the sweet potato & butternut chunks until soft. I then drained them & mashed them with the butter, nutmeg and S&P. Set aside.
to assemble the tart
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a medium bowl with plastic wrap. A moderately deep & wide one is best. If the bowl is too deep – your tart will be too tall & be more likely to collapse. Also – be sure your bowl opening (at the top) is no wider than the cooking sheet you will be using to bake the tart.
Roll out 2/3 of the dough big enough that it not only lines your bowl but has overhang.
Place a thin layer of puree in the bottom & then a thick layer of scalloped potatoes & then the rest of the puree. Put the four slices of cheese on top of that then all of the spinach & chicken.
Roll out the remaining dough so that it fits the top of your bowl & then fold the edges of the bottom crust over it & use a knife or fork to pinch it sealed. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper & invert it on top of your tart – and VERY CAREFULLY – flip it over so your tart is sealed-side down. Be sure to put the cooking sheet with the parchment ON TOP OF your bowl & flip. Do not try to just flip the bowl onto the cooking sheet. This sucker likely weighs more than a turkey & the soft dough will not withstand that much pressure. Remove the bowl & the plastic wrap.
I sprayed it with cooking oil but found that did not give me a golden glaze so – mix up a little vegan egg wash (small but equal parts agave nectar – soy milk – olive oil) and occasionally brush the tart as it bakes. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until it looks nice & browned.
Look how HUGE that thing is! See the pastry brush? That has to be 12 inches long.
OK – here comes a tricky part. Let it cool a while before fussing with it. Once anything that seeped out of it has pretty much cooled – run a knife under it to loosen the tart from the escapes bits. I used an ENORMOUS spatula & the parchment paper to very delicately shift the tart to a serving plate. It is a heavy & unwieldy thing – so be very delicate when handling this tart – get assistance, if possible. If the transfer is too risky for you – consider just putting some leafy greens & cranberries around the base on the pan itself & serve this bad boy directly from the cooking sheet. Better to go low brow than having this guy fall apart.
This should be served warm but is delicious at room temperature, too.
Happy vegan Thanksgiving!