Robin Robertson ~ Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful, but if you’re inviting relatives or friends to a meatless and dairy-free Thanksgiving, the stress can grow exponentially. After 25 years of serving a vegan Thanksgiving dinner to non-vegan guests, I’ve learned a few things to appease extended family members who may be accustomed to a turkey on the table.
In my experience, I’ve found that as long as the menu includes at least some familiar dishes, such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, it helps to quell the anxiety of relatives who may think they’ll starve if they can’t eat meat or dairy. If you have some favorite family side dishes, you might want to include them in your menu to provide a familiar touchstone. For example, stuffing and gravy are simple to make with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and mashed potatoes are just as delicious when made with Earth Balance instead of butter.
This year, my Thanksgiving menu comes from the pages of my new book, Party Vegan. We’ll begin with a rich and velvety Chestnut Bisque. The flavor of this satisfying soup says “Thanksgiving” almost as much as pumpkin pie. For a main dish, there’s Buttercup Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Shiitakes, and Caramelized Leeks. The buttercup squash has a deep orange-colored flesh and is especially sweet. It also has a nice sized cavity in which to bake the stuffing. Served with Pan Gravy, Roasted Autumn Vegetables, and Cranberry Chutney, it is a seasonal feast for all the senses. For dessert, we’re having Pecan-Pumpkin Pie — it has all the goodness of pumpkin pie and pecan pie in one dessert to keep everyone happy.
With a menu like this, omnivorous guests can discover how delicious a meatless and dairy-free Thanksgiving can be. Stressful holiday meals can be a thing of the past. Here’s my recipe for Chestnut Bisque to get your dinner off to a delicious start:
This recipe is from Party Vegan by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley & Sons.
This rich velvety soup is a wonderful way to begin this festive meal. If you can find jarred or frozen peeled chestnuts, it will cut down on your preparation time considerably. If using fresh chestnuts, see the preparation instructions following in this recipe and plan to prepare them in advance. (Peeled chestnuts are sold at Asian markets at a fraction of the cost in supermarkets.) For a thinner but still rich soup, add up to one cup of almond milk close to serving time.
1. Thinly slice 4 of the cooked chestnuts and set them aside. In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cover and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the remaining chestnuts, parsley, thyme, broth, and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. While the soup is cooking, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved sliced chestnuts and cook until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, and return to the pot. Reheat over medium heat until hot, add the brandy, if using. If the soup is too thick, add up to 1/2 cup more broth or up to 1 cup of almond milk. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with celery leaves and the reserved chestnuts.
Note: If using fresh chestnuts, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use a sharp paring knife to cut an "x" on the flat side of each chestnut shell. Arrange the chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast until the shells begin to curl open, 15 to 20 minutes. While the chestnuts are still warm, remove the outer shell and inner skin of each chestnut. The chestnuts are now ready to use.
Serves 4 to 6
Robin Robertson is a widely published vegan cookbook author with approximately 20 titles. A few of her most recent cookbooks include Party Vegan, Vegan on the Cheap, and Vegan Unplugged (co-authored with her husband, Jon Robertson). For more information on Robin and her books, visit her website, Global Vegan Kitchen. For more recipes, visit Robin's blog, Vegan Planet.