Food feature: Vegetarian harvest roast as a Thanksgiving main dish substitute (recipe)
This year, we decided to reverse engineer the vegetarian Thanksgiving.
Traditionally, diners who ditch the turkey are forced to cobble together a “main dish” by picking and choosing from the foods everyone else considers sides. But this year, we decided to create a vegetarian main dish that not only can stand up next to the turkey but that also is delicious enough that all the carnivores at the table will want it, too (and can treat it as a side dish).
This harvest roast is bold and substantial, just the vegetarian anchor you need to go alongside the mashed potatoes, stuffing and Brussels sprouts. You can bake it up as a loaf (similar to meatloaf), or for a more impressive presentation, it can be stuffed into a squash or small pumpkin and then roasted. It’s delicious either way.
VEGETARIAN HARVEST ROAST
(To make quick work of chopping the vegetables and nuts, use a food processor. Each item should be pulsed to the proper degree one at a time, but the food processor does not need to be washed out between items. Start to finish: 2 hours, 1 hour active. Servings: 12.)
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large leeks, white and light green parts, diced
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
16 ounces mixed mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup chestnuts, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup cooked barley or brown rice
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces shredded Gruyere or manchego cheese
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 small sugar pumpkins, about 1 1/2 pounds each (optional)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken-flavored vegetarian broth or mushroom broth
2 tablespoons minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
In a large, deep skillet over medium-high, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the leeks, onions, carrot, garlic, celery and mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly, until browned and very tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, sage, thyme and rosemary. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated.
Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Transfer the rest to a large bowl, and add the chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, barley, lentils, cottage cheese, eggs, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point and the mixture can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 1 large loaf pan or 2 smaller loaf pans with cooking spray, and line with kitchen parchment. Alternatively, cut each pumpkin in half top to bottom. Scoop out and discard the seeds and membranes from the pumpkin halves, and then set them on a baking sheet lined with kitchen parchment. Trim the rounded sides as needed to stand upright. Press the mushroom-barley-nut mixture into the loaf pan(s) or the pumpkins, mounding it as necessary to use all of the mixture.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the mixture is set up and firm, like a meatloaf. The temperature at the center of the loaves should reach 165 degrees. If you’re roasting in pumpkins, you want the pumpkins to also be tender.
While the roast is cooking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan over medium-high, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Whisk in the broth, and return to a simmer. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the reserved mushroom mixture. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened and no trace of starchy taste remains, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour into a blender, and carefully puree until completely smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm alongside the roast.
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