For the nation’s 7 million vegetarians and 1 million vegans, Thanksgiving means family and friends, but not turkey. But that does not mean that food is not important. On no other day of the year are expectations for a home-cooked meal higher. For that reason, the holiday can be challenging for vegan home cooks.
Port City Daily has collected some essential Thanksgiving recipes which reflect both the traditional flavors of the season and the philosophy of veganism.
1) Foundation: make your own vegetable stock. A staple of most thanksgivings is gravy, which gets its flavor from slow roasted turkey, often thickened with flour or corn starch. You can get some of the same effect with roasted vegetables.
- Assemble: a head of garlic, two large onions, three large carrots, and several stalks of celery. Also, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, bay leaves, and parsley.
- Halve the onions and garlic, chop the carrots and celery into inch long pieces.
- Roast at high heat (450’F) until onions start to darken (or, if you have a grill available, you can grill them – sliced side down – until they blacken, for extra-deep flavor).
- Cover roasted vegetables in water in a tall pot, adding black peppercorns, bay leaves and parsley.
- Bring to a boil, turn down and allow to simmer until reduced by 25%.
- Strain. Good for up to 10 days if properly refrigerating
2) Gravy: heart and soul of the meal. If you are serving a tofurkey-style dish this Thanksgiving, do not forgo gravy. Unlike traditional turkeys, which essentially create their own gravy while cooking, vegan home cooks have to do a little extra work. But, if you have fresh homemade vegetable stock, you well are on your way. A good gravy does immeasurable service to vegan stuffing, mashed potatoes, and of course Tofurkey. Note: nutritional yeast, for the unfamiliar, is a common additive to create umani, or savoriness, especially in vegan and vegetarian cooking. Toasting the yeast helps to deepen this flavor, giving the gravy exactly the kind of richness a home cook should look for in a gravy.
- Assemble: one large onion, garlic, sage, vegetable stock (1 quart), nutritional yeast (1/2 cup), flour (1/2 cup), olive oil.
- Preheat oven to 350’F.
- In a cup of olive oil, slowly simmer diced onions (one large onion) until they start to brown.
- While the onion simmers, place ½ cup of nutritional yeast on a sheet pan, along with ½ cup all-purpose flour (you can use rice flour or other gluten-free alternative). Toast the yeast-flour mix for about 15 minutes.
- When onions are browned, add a few minced sage leaves and allow them to crisp and brown slightly. Add a few cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
- Remove from heat.
- Add the toasted yeast-flour mix to the oil, onions, and garlic. It should form a wet-sand consistency.
- Return to low heat. Slowly add a quart (four cups) of vegetable stock while stiring. This works best when the stock is warm.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
3) Mushroom Pot Pie: big holiday flavor. This dish can be made using the gravy recipe as a base, and this Battleship North Carolina shortening-based crust.
- Assemble: Battleship pie dough, gravy (3-4 cups), mushrooms (8 oz), carrots and peas (80z each), olive oil.
- In a large pan – ideally a cast iron – saute ½ lb of rough chopped mushrooms. Baby portabellas (also called cremini mushrooms) work well, but you can use any type.
- Once the mushrooms start to brown and release their liquid, add two carrots, diced small, and 8 ounces of green peas (you can use flash-frozen vegetable mixes, for convenience, if you like).
- Add gravy and allow to simmer on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- For best results, fill 4-inch ramekins with the mushroom and vegetable gravy.
- Roll out pie dough, cut into circles slightly larger than your ramekins (you can use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass). Perforate with a fork and set down over the ramekin, allowing dough to tent slightly in the middle. (Alternatively, you can a use a single baking dish, but serving the finished meal can be a little trickier.)
- Bake for about 30 minutes at 350’F.
- (For an alternative version, top the ramekins with vegan biscuit dough and bake for the same time as you would for the biscuits.)
4) Stuffing: the real star of the show. Even turkey-lovers agree, the stuffing often steals the show on Thanksgiving. This vegan recipe, especially served with gravy, should do the same. Note: start this recipe at least one day beforehand.
- Assemble: two loaves of hearty white bread, a large onion, 3-4 celery, 2 large carrots, 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock, 1 cup of gravy. Also, fresh sage and thyme, salt.
- The day before – even two days before – take a hearty white bread and slice it into chunky 1-inch cubes. Leave it out, uncovered. The desired result is stiff but not rock-hard. Two loaves should give you about the 12 cups you need for this recipe.
- In a large pan, saute onion, celery, carrot, all small diced.
- When the onions are translucent, add diced sage, thyme, and salt (about 2 tsp each) and cook on low for about five minutes.
- Remove from heat. Mix with dried bread crumbs, vegetable stock and gravy.
- Transfer to a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil, back at 350’F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and back for 10-15 minutes more, until the top of the stuffing starts to get crispy.
5) Whipped sweet potatoes with sorghum and sage a simple recipe that packs big flavor. Sorghum syrup – made from sweet sorghum grass – is a popular alternative to molasses or sugar throughout the South and Appalachia. You can find it at Tidal Creek, Whole Foods, and other specialty grocers.
- Assemble: 4 large sweet potatoes, fresh sage, sorghum syrup, 1/4 cup vegetable stock, butter substitute, and chili flakes or cayenne pepper.
- Peel and quarter sweet potatoes.
- Boil until fork-tender (about 20 minutes) and then drain in a colander.
- In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Fry three large sage leaves until starting to brown. Removed, pat dry, and dice.
- In a large bowl, place sweet potato, ½ cup of butter substitute, ¼ cup vegetable stock, diced sage, and 2 tbsp of sorghum syrup. Mash well. (You can use a ricer, for a smoother finish, but some cooks enjoy the rustic style of hand-mashed potatoes).
- Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne or red chili flakes. (This sweet side really benefits from spicy heat, if your holiday guests are on board, you can certainly add several pinches of chilies.)
6) White Balsamic Brussels Sprouts: the comeback kid. Brussels sprouts are for many the stuff of childhood nightmares. For generations, they have been served boiled – or worse, reheated from cans – and can be bitter and sulfurous. In recent years, they have been appeared on upscale New American restaurant menus, but chefs frequently rely on pancetta or bacon to help develop the flavor of the sprouts. This recipe brings the natural nutty sweetness out of the sprouts, and accentuates it with reduced white balsamic and toasted nutritional yeast.
- Assemble: Brussels sprouts (2 lbs), olive oil, nutritional yeast, white balsamic vinegar.
- Preheat oven to 400’F.
- Rinse sprouts and allow to dry. Cut sprouts in half (this can be tedious, but it is worthwhile). Toss generously in olive oil, salt and pepper.
- On a sheet pan or in a oven-safe pan, spread 1 cup of nutritional yeast and toast about 10 minutes, set aside.
- On a metal sheet pan, arrange Brussels sprouts cut side down. Bake for about 45 minutes on center rack.
- In a small or medium pot, reduce two cups of white balsamic vinegar over medium high heat. When the vinegar is syrupy and coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat. (If you over-reduce, you can add a splash of warm water or more vinegar. Cold water will ‘freeze up’ the reduction, and make clean up difficult. You can also buy ready-to-use balsamic reductions from many grocery stores).
- Optional: caramelize two large onions, julienned (cut into thin strips).
- When Brussels sprouts are roasted dark-brown on the bottom, remove from the oven. Toss with toasted yeast, balsamic reduction, and – if you like – caramelized onions.
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