Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Vegetarian Thanksgiving

As a vegetarian, I always find it disappointing to find my Thanksgiving dinner relegated to side dishes. I like the traditional stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, but without a main course, the meal is starchy and I end up hungry soon after eating while others are still bloated on turkey. Garry and I have tried multiple versions of faux turkey (AKA tofurkey) including the commercial Tofurky and one locally made by our coop, and they have only been okay. Usually dry, too salty and surprisingly flavorless. This left us looking for another stand-in. After a couple of failed attempts (pumpkin ravioli, nutloaf) we found that soufflé works really well as a Thanksgiving entrée, and it has been the main course of our Thanksgiving menu for many years.

Soufflé is, perhaps surprisingly to some, a stellar choice for Thanksgiving. First, there’s the potential for failure. Isn’t the threat of an overcooked and dry turkey the hallmark of Thanksgiving anxiety? When prepared well, a soufflé’s appearance out of the oven is impressive. The flavor and texture of a cheddar soufflé melds nicely with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and a green vegetable – does it matter which? It’s Thanksgiving. Between the butter, cheese, eggs, and milk, it isn't good for you, but it’s so delicious. Garry and I have chuckled with each other over a future day when a grade school teacher would survey Ezra’s class for traditional Thanksgiving foods and he would pipe up, “soufflé!” to the puzzlement of his teachers and peers.

But this past Thanksgiving, we parted ways with soufflé and made tofurkey from scratch. I’m not sure why we hadn’t tried this sooner. We are do-it-yourself, cook-from-scratch kind of people. Every year we spend Thanksgiving Day cooking with friends, making everything from scratch including our gravy using homemade vegetable broth. I was under the impression tofurkey would be difficult to make and not worth the effort, but it was one of the easiest things on our menu to make and it was delicious. Throw a few things in the food processor, spread the mix in a loaf pan with stuffing, bake for an hour. Voilà! Unlike soufflé, tofurkey is a perfect vehicle for gravy.

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