The day? Tuesday, November 22nd. The time: 8:00 p.m. The scene: the kitchen, post-Thanksgiving shopping.
I have all my recipes handy, no dirty dishes in the sink, the dish washer is free—I’m in control. I stare at my carefully timed and plotted schedule-and-to-do-list combo, having painstakingly pour over all my recipes for the Big Day, taking copious notes for shopping, prepping, and cooking.
Alright… Turkey? Check—out of the brine and in the fridge to dry the skin. Potatoes? Check, ready to be chopped Thursday morning. Turkey stock? Yep, defrosting now for basting, gravy, dressing. Butter softening? On the counter now. Dinner roles? Duh. Green beans? Packed and ready for trimming . Bread for dressing, cubed and drying? You bet. Extra bread for late-night, fridge-raid turkey sandwiches? C’mon! Let’s see… What else…
The phone rings.
“Hello? Oh, hey. How’s it going? Oh yeah.”
[The person on the other end is talking]
“Absolutely! No it’s totally… oh… okay…”
“Uh huh… right… Oh. No, no, it’s not. No it’s fine, seriously.”
[Blah, blah, blah]
“Shut up, I’m serious. It’s totally fine. Don’t worry about it! Yeah. I’ll see you guys Thursday.”
Holy $#&%. I’m screwed! Call it off, call it off, call it off. One of my Thanksgiving guest is bringing a date and they’re… they’re… they’re… VEGAN. The horror!
No, but seriously… This is nothing against vegans by any means, but on a day that’s crux is a golden brown roasted turkey, a newly acquired vegan can throw anyone off their game. When you mentally picture your Thanksgiving table you see a big roasted bird, gravy made from the finest Turkey Stock, mashed potatoes loaded with cream and butter, green beans smothered in creamy sauce, a dressing (or stuffing if you please) studded with bronzed bits of pork sausage, a mile-high cheesecake… It’s kind of like when your friend brings their toddler to your house and you realize that your home is a deathtrap for small children. But everyone is welcome—always. When you’ve got a mix of meat eaters and vegans gathering—a modernization of the idealized age-old story—you have to plan accordingly. You can substitute the cream and butter in the mashed potatoes with plain almond milk and vegan butter (just don’t tell your uncle); whip up a really flavorful and savory gravy out of a stock made from dried mushrooms, roasted garlic, and other aromatics (thickened with arrowroot for the gluten free); and maybe change up the classic green bean casserole all together by tossing blanched green beans with an almond pesto. Frankly, they’d all be just as good and a nice change from the norm, but there’s still the matter of that damn turkey. Well, I have a solution:
No. It’s not tofurkey. I don’t think anyone wants anything to do with that.
It’s Chickpea & Butternut Squash Stew with Wild Rice Pilaf. Not only is this a great main course for someone with a vegan diet (gluten free, too), but it also makes for an excellent side for everyone else, too. It’s fabulously flavorful as it should be—just because someone won’t be eating meat doesn’t mean they don’t deserve something just as spectacular. It’s not quite a stew in the traditional sense, but take comfort in that.
I start with dried beans and soak them the night before. I know that soaking beans isn’t always necessary, but I find that it helps chickpeas to cook and soften quicker as does the slight pinch of baking soda (or so I’m told). That said, you could probably use canned or jarred beans in their place, but you’ll be without that wonderful broth. From there they go into a slow cooker, along with some flavorful aromatics, where they sit virtually untouched while they soften and I get on with other tasks. The aromatics in question here are cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, garlic, bay leaves, and orange rind (I said it in my last post, but I am ALL about oranges this holiday season). Butternut squash is then roasted so it’s nice and caramelized before the sunburst-colored squash and strained beans meet in a pan of sautéed shallots, garlic, and chili. Some of that bean broth from the slow cooker is added, warm with aroma and comfort, and it’s all simmered together. To thicken it, I hold back a little bit of the beans and squash, and puree it with some of the bean broth—it thickens this beautifully to a smooth and luscious silk.
Served over a bed of wild rice and studded with ruby red pomegranate seeds—so seasonally celebratory—it’s the perfect fare for anyone, vegan or not. See, it’s not so scary. If you have a vegan guest coming to dinner you can rest easy knowing that I have you covered… except for dessert. You’re on your own there.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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