It’s November, Persephoneers! Chances are you’re writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, remember, remembering the 5th, and if you’re in the US, you’re possibly starting to think about that up and coming feast we like to celebrate toward the end of the month: Thanksgiving. This is the first of a 4-part series on how to cook traditional Thanksgiving dishes for non-omnivorous lifestyles.
First up in our series are the vegetarians. Omnivores tend to cringe when I talk about vegetarian Thanksgiving, because to them we’re missing the whole point of the Thanksgiving feast: the big, dead bird in the middle of the table.
To be honest, in our own (vegetarian) home, we skip turkey replacements because we think Tofurky is kind of gross and there’s so much other food that we love. But if that’s your thing, most major grocers carry that gelatinous, kind of sad excuse for a turkey in either the frozen section or in the special vegetarian refrigerated section.
For the rest of you:
Mushroom Gravy: Melt 1/2 c. butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When it starts sizzling, add 1 lb. sliced mushrooms: any old kind you want will do! Stir for about 10 minutes, until the mushroom juices have evaporated and the mushrooms have begun to brown (not blacken). Stir in about 1/3 c. flour (any kind will do; it’s working as a thickener eventually, so if you aren’t using wheat flour, stick to the less-sweet varieties) and reduce your heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Whisk in 1 c. of a quart of cold vegetable (or for a more poultry-ish flavor, no-chicken) broth, and when incorporated, stir in the rest. Add a couple tablespoons of cream (or soy milk if you’re of that persuasion), 1/2 tsp. thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste, and there you go. If you want it thicker, heat and reduce to your desired thickness. If you want it thinner, add more broth. The big thing is breaking up the possible clumps of flour that were stuck to your mushrooms. A whisk or fork can do that just fine. Vegans, replace butter with either vegan butter or about half that amount of olive oil to cook the mushrooms in, replace the cream with soy- or rice-milk.
Stuffing: First, anyone who tells you you can’t have stuffing that’s vegetarian because you have to cook it in the bird eats dry turkey and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Cooking stuffing in the bird ruins the turkey and isn’t great for the stuffing overall either. Cook it separately either way, and I promise it will turn out amazing. Here’s what I do: I make a loaf of Irish Soda Bread* a few days before Thanksgiving, slice half of it into thinnish slices, and let them dry out a little for a day (the rest I reserve for the Thanksgiving feast as bread for dipping in gravy, or for after-Thanksgiving sandwiches). Then I cut those slices into small squares, think croutons, and bake them in the oven at about 425° F for about 15 minutes: enough to toast them. I combine them in a casserole with a quart of vegetable broth, half a chopped onion, 2-3 chopped stalks of celery, and about a tablespoon each of salt, white pepper, thyme, and marjoram. You can mix in walnuts or pecans (I am not a chestnut fan and think they’re too damn much work to prepare), cranberries, and/or peppers for some spice if you like, but stir the whole thing together, dot with butter, and bake at about 350° F for 40-50 minutes. When you’re done, if it’s too dry, sprinkle a little more broth, tablespoons at a time, until you achieve the consistency you desire. For a less dense stuffing, try cornbread, prepped the same way. Vegans, choose a vegan-friendly bread and don’t worry too much about dotting with butter. You can drizzle a little of your favorite oil sparingly over the top if you’d like the nice browning.
Mashed Potatoes: You can use any potato you like. I love red potatoes with the skin still on. Any potatoes you want, just cut them into about 1-2″ cubes, boil completely submerged until they softly crumble at the slightest pressure from a fork, and drain. Add to this pile of boiled potatoes 1/4 c. butter, softened or cut into small pieces, 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic if desired, and about 1/4-1/2 c. cream. Mash with a potato masher until you reach the consistency you desire; add more cream for smoother potatoes and keep mashing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For vegan options, try vegenaise instead of butter and increase the quantity of milk, substituting soy milk instead.
I am pretty much making an assumption that vegetarians can handle their own rolls, celery sticks, cranberry sauce, and pie. Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments and I will gladly supply a recipe!
Next week, we’ll be covering Thanksgiving from the gluten-free perspective. Yes, I’ll tell you how to roast a turkey then. Bon appetit!
*Will happily supply this secret family recipe to anyone who requests it because screw secret recipes.