Thanksgiving Classics

Our national feast is upon us. Time to baste ourselves in real and fake butter fat. So grab your feather headdress and your pilgrim hat. (We like to tuck Kleenex in our sweater cuffs like colonial douchebags.)

This year, Evan got asked by some colleagues to perform a nearly impossible task: buy a frozen soy turkey and make it taste as delicious as possible, to answer once and for all, “Can a fake turkey taste good?” But not just for omnivores; for a James Beard-award winning food critic, a chef and food show host, and two famous butchers. Will he convert them all, or fail miserably? Listen below!

As for the big meal this week. Here’s some recipe inspiration. In years past we’ve celebrated our favorite food holiday with experiments, like nut-heavy bread-less stuffing, leek-and-apple “pork” loin, and of course Thanksgiving Pop-Tarts. We’ve shared with you before our family holiday tradition of “nut balls.” And in “Salad Daze” we spend several pages on must-haves like beer-cranberry sauce and vegan coconut-mashed potatoes. So there’s that. This year, we’re sticking with the basics. Below are the classics: perfect stuffing and meatless mushroom gravy. You’ll need those Kleenex to sop up the mess.

(Makes too much)

At least 3 cups vegetable stock
4 cups sourdough bread cubes (dry)
4-5 Shittake mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 bunch heirloom carrots
1 large parsnip
1 fennel bulb
5 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
8-10 fresh sage leaves
several sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup raw walnuts
1 tablespoon fennel seed
3 stalks celery
2 medium-sized shallots
1 green apple

1. Make a large pot of vegetable or mushroom stock from scratch. This being Thanksgiving, this should be your first task anyway; you’ll need about 3 cups for this recipe.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees for roasting your vegetables and roots. Wash, peel and chop the carrots, parsnip and fennel. Toss with a liberal splash of olive oil and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 25 minutes or until starting to brown. Remove and let cool.

3. In a sauté pan, heat more olive oil. Slice or dice the Shittake mushrooms into large meaty hunks and sauté for several minutes. Add soy and vinegar, letting it cook off slightly and coating mushrooms. Remove and set aside.

4. In a separate sauté pan, toast the pecans on low heat for 5 minutes, shaking pan every 30 seconds to brown evenly. After five, add the fennel seed and a drizzle of olive oil, and shake to keep from burning. Nuts should be fragrant but just a notch above raw. Salt to taste and set aside.

5. Prepare herbs and raw ingredients: pluck and mince thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley (keep the parsley separated from the other herbs). Chop your apple and slice your shallots. Slice each celery stalk lengthwise into 3 long pieces, then line them up and dice into small pieces.

6. Set out all your ingredients on the counter, plus a large mixing bowl and a large casserole dish or roasting pan that you’ve greased with olive oil. In the bowl, start to combine everything (you may need to do this in two batches). Bread cubes first, then add the roasted veggies, mushroom plus pan juices, walnuts, raw ingredients and herbs except for the parsley. Add about a cup of stock while mixing by hand, trying to wet evenly. Repeat with a second cup of stock.

7. Fill your casserole dish with the stuffing. Top snugly with aluminum foil and slide into the oven. Cook this way for about 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and add final cup of stock, stirring gently and return the foil on top. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and let sit (covered with foil) until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley and salt to taste.

Shittake Mushroom Gravy
(Makes 2 cups)

3 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup mushroom stock
1 cup almond milk
4-5 shittake mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
several sprigs fresh thyme
a lot of freshly ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

1. Make a roux: Heat a medium-sized stock pot on high heat and after 30 seconds toss in the margarine. Let it melt and coat the surface of the pot before adding the flour. Stir frequently with a spatula to keep from burning the flour. The flour and butter will form a thick paste.

2. After about 3 minutes or as soon as the roux starts to brown, add half a cup of almond milk and whisk vigorously. Let it return to a near-boil. (It should re-thicken as you whisk.) Repeat this step twice, adding another 1/4 cup while whisking each time. Now repeat this step two more times, adding 1/4 of mushroom stock each time (you should have 1/2 cup stock left over). Now you should have a less thick, creamy liquid. Lower the heat to a simmer and let it slowly return to a near-boil.

3. Dice your shittake mushrooms. Place a skillet on high heat with the olive oil. Wait 30 seconds and toss in the mushrooms along with the fennel. Saute for several minutes, tossing frequently. Once they wilt and start to brown, add about 1/2 cup stock and soy sauce and cook like this for 5-10 minutes on medium, letting the mushrooms soak up this liquid. Set aside.

4. Season the still-simmering gravy with sage, cayenne and black pepper. Rip the thyme off its stem and into the pot and stir. Add the mushroom bits with as much or as little of the liquid as desired. Season with sea salt to taste. (Add remaining mushroom stock if needed, it’s extra just in case)

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