Monday, November 15, 2010

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

  I love Thanksgiving for so many food-related reasons. I love collecting recipes all year long and planning the menu. I love the marathon shopping trip that my mom and I make the day before Thanksgiving (which usually includes at least three grocery stores). I love making a detailed itinerary for the whole day, designating exactly who is cooking what at which point. I also love hearing my sister mock my detailed itinerary each year. And finally, I love having an excuse to spend the entire day in the kitchen (plus my mom usually cleans up for me as I go).

Sadly, I am not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year because I’m staying on the east coast instead of heading home. My parents are coming here and we are going to The Red House which I’m sure will be amazing. Since I don’t get to enjoy making actual Thanksgiving dinner, my friends and I had fake-Thanksgiving last weekend! I decided to make it a vegetarian dinner for two reasons:  1. sides are really my favorite parts of the meal; and 2. I refuse to buy butterball turkeys from the grocery store (you can read why in this article I wrote for BC Law’s online student newspaper) but I can’t afford to buy a heritage turkey. 

Here is the whole Menu:
(you will find the recipes for the italicized items below)
Baked Brie with Almonds and Brown Sugar
Goat Cheese Biscuits
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Leek, Mushroom, and Herb Stuffing
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Lemon Brown Butter
Braised Kale
Cranberry Sauce
Apple Crisp

People were a little skeptical about the Brussels sprouts but I discovered that I loved them this summer (featured in this recipe) and I think they make a delicious side dish.  I used kale as another vegetable side - very healthy and yummy.  The recipe calls for three bunches which is A LOT of kale.  I wish I had taken a before picture- it filled up three large bowls but wilted down to an appropriate size portion.  The biscuits are a recipe that my sister and aunt make every year- they are from Art Smith’s restaurant Table 52 in Chicago.  You will also notice that I finally had the guts to add butternut squash to my mac n cheese and it was yummy!  I might add even more next time…

Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits
From Back to the Table, By Art Smith
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) goat cheese
1 cup buttermilk
Extra butter to grease the pan
½ cup parmesan, grated
Preheat your oven to 425°. Place one 10-inch cast iron pan into the oven
while it is preheating. Place flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder
into a medium-sized bowl. Cut in the butter and goat cheese. Make a well in
the middle of the ingredients and pour in the milk. Stir until the mix is
moistened, adding an extra tablespoon of milk if needed.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place a tablespoon of butter into
it. When the butter has melted, drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter into the pan,
(use a muffin scoop to drop the batter if you have one). Brush the tops of
the biscuits with melted butter. Bake from 14–16 minutes until browned on
the top and bottom. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated
cheese. Enjoy warm!

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
makes 8-10 servings
1 ½ lbs penne
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into very small pieces
8 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons shallots, minced
6 tablespoons flour
4 cups nonfat milk
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz. gruyere
Sea salt and pepper
Cook the penne in heavily salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  Peel the butternut squash and cut into a fine dice.  In a large sauté pan, cook the butternut squash in two tablespoons of butter over medium heat until softened.  Remove from pan and wipe clean. 
Melt remaining butter and add the shallots.  Cook until the shallots become translucent, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with flour and stir until the flour begins to brown.  Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly.  Turn up the heat until the milk is close to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer until it begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.  Add half the cheddar and all of the gruyere to the milk along with the squash, season with salt and pepper. 
Toss the sauce with the pasta.  Pour about a third of the pasta in the pan and sprinkle with some of the cheddar, then pour another third, sprinkle with more cheese, pour the final third, and top with the rest of the cheese.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncover and broil for 5-10 minutes until brown and bubbly.  Yum!
Leek, Mushroom, and Herb Stuffing
makes 8-10 servings
1 large loaf of sourdough bread, crusts removed and cut into ½ inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter           
1 large onion, minced
1 cup celery, minced
2 cups leeks, sliced in half-moons
1 lb mixed wild mushrooms (I like chanterelles, shitake, and cremini), roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the middle of the oven.  Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes.  Transfer bread to a large bowl.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pan over medium heat and add onion, celery, and leeks.  Sauté until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Add to the bowl with bread cubes.
Without wiping skillet, melt 2 more tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until they begin to soften.  Add wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms to the bowl with the bread cubes.
Stir in the herbs, seasoning, eggs, and stock.  Transfer to a pan, cover, and bake at 350 for about a half hour.  Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes to let the stuffing brown nicely on top.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
makes 8-10 servings
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 tablespoons butter
<1/2 cup milk
Cover sweet potatoes with water in a large saucepan.  Cook, covered, until tender, about 15-20 minutes, then drain potatoes in a colander.  Transfer the potatoes back to the pan, combine with butter, and mash with a potato masher.  If the potatoes are dry, add a little milk.  Add salt to taste.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Lemon Browned Butter
makes 8-10 servings
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and salt, then spread on a baking sheet, cut sides down.  Roast for 40-45 minutes until the outer leaves are tender and browned.  Transfer to serving bowl.
Melt butter over medium heat and cook until it browns, stirring constantly.  Add the lemon juice to pan (be careful, it will splatter) then add Brussels sprouts to the pan and toss to combine.
Braised Kale
makes 8-10 servings
2 lbs kale (about 3 bunches), large center ribs removed, cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Rinse the kale and drain.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion.  Sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and sprinkle with salt.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes brown and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.   
Add kale and remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss until it is wilted (you may have to do this in batches, waiting for it wilt before adding more).  Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let the kale braise for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoons if dry.  Transfer to serving bowl and top with lemon juice. 

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