No turkey, no problem.

By Stacey Ballis
November 21, 2019

My philosophy about entertaining is that there is always room for one more, especially at the holidays. This is somewhat less simple when the person you offer holiday sanctuary to has a dietary restriction. The gluten-free can always skip the stuffing, and the dairy-free can give the mash a miss, but making a good vegetarian main course can be a tough one at the holidays. Because while many of the sides can be made meat-free, it can be hard for a vegetarian to feel like they have a real celebratory main to dig into. This is made especially clear by the existence of things like Field Roast and Tofurky.

Now, if your vegetarian pal is a serious fan of either of these entrees, then by all means add them to the buffet. But here arre a few ideas for vegetarian showstoppers you can serve at Thanksgiving.

Pot Pies

The first time I had a vegetarian to Thanksgiving, my primary concern was protein. My usual menu is all about the carbs, with one lone green vegetable tossed in, and the cream and butter in the mashed potatoes are not exactly a good singular source of protein. I decided to try and make a vegetarian pot pie that would cover those bases. Pot pie is easy, especially if you use store-bought crust or puff-pastry for the topper. I did mine with a variety of wild mushrooms, for that meaty feeling, cooked in butter and shallot and white wine and herbs, and added small white navy beans to add that protein. Some of the beans got mashed, which added a creaminess to the dish, and once it was cooked, I put it into a baking dish and topped with crust. It just needed a quick bake in the oven to cook the crust and reheat the filling. My vegetarian pal was thrilled and satisfied, and the rest of my guests also tucked in with much enjoyment. It became a go-to for dinner parties as well. Any stewlike vegetarian dish, from curried chickpeas to pumpkin tagine to ratatouille can be pot-pied. Just slap a crust on it and it is instantly fancy.

Whole Roasted Vegetables

If you want to be able to carve something, think about large-format vegetables. Cabbage, cauliflower, and celery root, all lend themselves to roasting whole and can then be served carved into vegetable steaks or wedges with a variety of accoutrements to make them festive. Again, think about bringing some protein to the party by serving on a base of things like herbed labneh, whipped goat or feta cheese, hummus or another bean puree. I cut down on the roasting time by first boiling the vegetable in a seasoned broth until it is tender, then oiling and seasoning the exterior and roasting at 450 until the outside is caramelized and flavorful. I love the Better than Boullion no Chicken Base as a stock base for all my vegetarian cooking.

Stuff Something

Nothing says special like a big delicious thing stuffed with other delicious things. Whether it is a pumpkin or squash, eggplant or zucchini, even a hollowed-out cabbage or large onion. Find a filling that will complement the exterior, like a risotto or pilaf, couscous, or even a bread stuffing. Par-roast the vegetable until slightly softened but not completely tender, then stuff and finish roasting until the exterior is tender, and the center of your filling is at 150 degrees. Serve with a metal spoon that can easily scrape some of the exterior out into every portion.

Easy Layered Pasta Casseroles

While many have mac and cheese on the menu, almost any vegetarian’s dream, you can also make an easy vegetarian pasta casserole main by pre-cooking large cheese ravioli and then layering them with other vegetables or sauces. Think sliced butternut squash and browned butter and sage, or cheesy mornay sauce and swiss chard or spinach. Top with cheese and bake till golden browned and bubbly.

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