Two of my family members are vegetarian; the rest are really looking forward to their Thanksgiving turkey. Although it is possible to make enough vegetables to satisfy a vegetarian at dinner, I believe in making them feel special, without resorting to manufactured protein. I like to create a unique main course for them that has all the Thanksgiving elements, one that’s so good the meat eaters want to try it, too.
My latest favourite is meaty portobello mushrooms, filled with the same stuffing as the turkey and served with a red-wine sauce. The sauce has to be made separately, but it can also be drizzled over Brussels sprouts. Another sauce option would be an aioli or a watercress pesto, both of which could be served with other vegetable dishes that are part of the meal.
Here is my take on a simple stuffed mushroom that will satisfy everyone at the table. I usually make some smaller brown mushrooms, too, so that my non-veg guests can have one if they want.
Take six large portobello mushrooms and remove the stems. Chop and reserve the mushroom stems and brush the inside of the mushroom cap with some oil. Sauté one large, diced onion with two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add a large clove of sliced garlic, a few chopped sage leaves and the reserved mushroom stems. Sauté until mushroom stems are soft.
Stir in one grated, unpeeled firm apple. Continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the apple is incorporated. Stir in about one cup of breadcrumbs, and a few chopped Brazil nuts. Remove from heat and stir in an egg. If the stuffing looks dry, moisten with some apple juice or cider. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Stuff the mushrooms, scatter over some grated cheese (cheddar or Parmesan are both good) and bake in the same oven as the turkey for 25 to 30 minutes.
To make the red-wine sauce, add about 1½ cups red wine, two tablespoons balsamic vinegar and one teaspoon sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to ⅓ cup. Stir in at least ¼ cup butter. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat when needed.
A few more veggie ideas that all your guests will enjoy: Butternut squash and leek bread pudding (cook the squash and leeks; layer with bread and pour over eggs, milk, cheese of choice and seasonings. Throw in a few dried cranberries if desired). A puff-pastry tart with sautéed onions, lots of spinach and feta cheese combined with a couple of eggs. Vegetable lasagna with squash, spinach, shaved Brussels sprouts and a cheesy white sauce. Baked squash halves filled with a cranberry-chestnut stuffing. These could all be sides or mains.
Sorry meat eaters; a vegetarian Thanksgiving sounds awfully good to me.
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