Friday, March 20, 2015

Cheeseburger Pie

Did your parents ever make the cheeseburger pie recipe on the back of the Bisquick box? Mine did, and I always loved it when I was a kid. It's like sloppy joes, but with biscuits instead of buns. What's not to love? At some point when I was older, they stopped making it and I eventually forgot about it. It wasn't until someone mentioned it at work that I remembered it. After chatting about it with my mom one day, I decided that it's time for this fondly-remembered dish to make a cruelty-free comeback.

Standing in for ground beef is textured vegetable protein, or TVP. It's inexpensive and very easy to to cook. If you can make couscous, you can make TVP. The soy sausage or vegan ground beef that you see in grocery stores are usually made from TVP. Making your own is cheaper and allows you to flavor it however you want. Look for it in the bulk section of the grocery store. If it isn't there, it might be nearby, grouped with all the special flours that Bob's Red Mill makes. It runs $1.50-$2.00 a pound, usually. Don't be put off by it's pre-cooked appearance. It doesn't really look like it could ever be made to resemble ground beef, no matter what you do to it, but once we're done, it'll be able to fool any omnivore you put it in front of. Before you cook it, though, it really just looks like Grape Nuts:

One trick I used to make it resemble ground beef a little more is browning liquid. This stuff is vegan, and is used to darken up gravies and sauces. I use it to give my beef seitan and TVP dishes more of that "beefy" color. I use Kitchen Bouquet, but Gravy Master is really good, too. You can find it in the sauce aisle at most grocery stores.


For the crust:
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp Earth Balance, cubed and kept cold
1 tbsp chives
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme or parsley

For the filling:
2 cups TVP
2 2/3 cups water
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp browning liquid (optional - see note above)
2 tsp oregano
1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 package vegan cheese (melty ones work best. I used Daiya Pepper Jack flavor for this one)
1 tomato, sliced

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Make the crust: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and soy milk. Whisk it until it thickens up a bit (it won't take long). Set it aside for a few minutes while you prepare the flour.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the Earth Balance and, using a pastry cutter or two knives. cut it down to the size of small peas. You can use a food processor for this as well.

Now add the chives, thyme or parsley (or both) and milk mixture and work it all in together with a wooden spoon. Once the dough is close to where you need it to be, dump it out on a floured counter or board and work it into a smooth ball.

You can use a square 8x8 baking dish for this, or a round cake pan, whichever you prefer. Spray the pan with cooking spray, put the dough into the pan and start working it out and up the edges of the pan with your fingers. You want a semi-thick crust on this. Don't go as thin as you would a pizza. There should be plenty of dough for you to work with. Go almost all the way up the sides of the pan. Some areas will be thicker than others, but don't let that worry you. This is a rustic kind of dish, so it doesn't need to look perfect.

Once it's done, put the pan in the fridge until you're ready to add the filling.

Make the filling: In a skillet, combine the water, garlic and onion powders, tamari and browning liquid (if using). Turn the heat on to medium-high until it starts to boil in the pan. Pour in the TVP and stir it around so that none of it is dry or above the surface of the liquid.

Cover the skillet and watch it closely. Once it starts to boil again, turn the heat down to a simmer. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and turn it off. Let it sit, covered, for another 5 minutes or so. The liquid will be mostly gone and the TVP will have a ground beef texture to it.

Put the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add the oregano and tomato paste and stir it around to combine it. Keep stirring while it heats up. The tomato paste will soften up and combine as it heats. You're looking for the consistency of sloppy joes.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and cover the surface with cheese and sliced tomatoes.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is nicely browned. Let it cool for a few minutes, slice and serve.

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