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Thanksgiving conundrum


jupe
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I'm planning a thanksgiving dinner, however because of the specifics guests I have a semi-broad range of dietary requirements. I'm not unusued to one or two at the same time, but this is what I'm working with:

* 4 guests are omnivores

* 1 guest is a strict vegetarian

* 1 guest is a vegetarian but will eat fish and seafood

* 1 guest is deathly allergic to eggs, but will eat veg/seafood/chicken

* 1 guest will eat anything but seafood

in addition:

* 2 of the omnivores won't eat anything with olives

* 1 of the omnivores won't eat anything with pickles

* 1 of the omnivores won't eat anything with mushrooms

* there is a 50/50 chance between two and four more omnivores may show up at any given time

there aren't any other food allergies i'm aware of, and i've interrogated them all pretty well.

my basic problem is this: i want to make the afternoon/evening a stress free, memorable, and most importantly tastey experience for all involved. that, in my mind, means as much mise as possible, as much prep as possible, and not just recycling stereotypes for the food groups as possible (for example, i do not accept baked salmon for the semi-vegs and a salad for the true-vegs as an option for the main course).

however, i also want to do a multi-course meal (3-5ish), since i think they are more interesting, engage the guests more, and mostly cause you don't need to plan to have everything done at the exact same time.

equipment-wise i have four electric burners, 1 microwave, 1 slow cooker, two refrigerators, and 1 chest freezer. pots and pans, plates, and silverware are not an issue. serving-ware may be stretched, but not overly.

so, some of the ideas i've been floating around are:

* cauliflower soup--always seems to be a pleaser, but i'm open to suggestions

* vegetable samosas in puff pastry--love the home made crust, but could a continental take on this work?

* charcuterie plate, cheese plate, pickle plate--i can get high quality soprasetta and others at a reasonable price, artisinal cheeses, and i have jars of home cured pickles (onion, carrot, bean, and cabbage)

* deboned and stuff turkey--a slightly different take on the thanksgiving turkey. basically, butterfly, debone, add stuffing, tie and roast. gonna give it a trial run this weekend.

however, i'm missing a few things:

* pure vegetarian main--doesn't have to be big, but gotta have it, and doesn't have to be vegan

* possible fish main--if the pure veg is robust enough then this may work for the second guest

* other side dishes/courses--yes, we all love mashed potatoes/etc., and they will probably be there, but are there other special items that can be crowd pleaser's in this configuration?

hope this doesn't sound too rambling, but trying to wrap my head around all these permutations has been a challenge. thanks!

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What I do is concentrate on the main, in this case turkey, but make sure all the sides are vegetarian, and some of them substantial. You did not say if the strict vegetarian would eat dairy and eggs. Much harder if not.

Thus:

Cauliflower soup sounds good, but needs cream and crouton or goo bread

Main: Turkey, but you may want to cook a veggy stuffing seperately

Veggie sides:

Cornbread

Green bean casserole

sprouts and chestnuts

haricot beans

Butter (or olive oil and garlic) roast potatoes or mashed potatoes

Nice cheeses

Sweets: I guess pecan pie and pumpkin pie, made with butter pastry

Coffee, petit four and digestif

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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In this situation, I'd ask each difficult guest to bring one dish that s/he could eat him or herself, in a quantity of say 5 servings.

If you prepare one other dish that would suit one or more special needs, then every person will have at least 2 things to eat.

A bit minimalist, but does that sound workable?

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luckily (no offense meant) no vegans, only sliding scale vegetarians. i'm still stuck on what would be a substantial and memorable main for the folks that don't eat poultry or mammals. this is particularly killing me since i was vegetarian for years, but mostly i was a vegetarian because i didn't like food.

what main can you do with the same sense of grandeur as a roast animal, but not be a roast animal? maybe i'm a little ambitious, but i like to see genuine smiles on peoples faces when they've had something new or different. also, since i was a vegetarian in a previous life, i like to see omnivores think to themselves, "well, this vegetarianism wouldn't be half bad". again, maybe i'm a little ambitious/perverse, but it's fun.

p.s., when i cook for vegetarians, i usually do indian--ethnic dishes are not out for this thanksgiving.

thanks!!!

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I know it's cliche, but something like manicotti or canneloni with homemade pasta is always nice. Like the one Dave Ross did, but without the meat.

Spanakopita is usually popular with everyone, and can be made ahead, then reheated.

Technically, though, both of those would fall under an "ethnic" heading...

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I fail to see why you should cook seperately. They don't cook meat when you visit.

However some veggie spectaculars, that you can cut at:

Savoury roulade, like pumpkin or chestnut (uses eggs), tomato sauce

Wooton or other vegetarian pie, with veggie gravy

Veggie souffle

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Last year I made a lovely corn pie - it was based on this recipe but I made the filling from this recipe (with added butternut squash). It looked lovely and tasted delicious. I also made a pumpkin, spinach and ricotta lasagne which was greatly appreciated (you could use egg-free lasagne so the person allergic to eggs could eat it too).

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what main can you do with the same sense of grandeur as a roast animal, but not be a roast animal? 

How about something like a vegetarian "Beef" Wellington? Either you could use fake meat or make a veggie meatloaf and then wrap it in puff pastry.

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Have been meaning to make thisfor some time. I need to adapt that recipe to vegetarian. Need to get a hold of a few things namely literarinesses "beef and chicken flavored" stock base.

When made with bacon KUGALIS (Lithuanian) are extreamly filling. I used to order them at a Lithuanian restaurant that made them in large bread loaf pans. So basically you something like a potato pancake that was shaped like meat loaf.

I hope I have time to experiment. Wouldn't cost much to play with. I'm hoping once cooked and cooled I can deep fry in peanut oil.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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The new Gourmet magazine has a gorgeous picture of a pumpkin stuffed with roasted vegetable stew. I can't wait to do it for my veghead friends on T Day.

They roast the pumpkin, too, it's beautiful.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/240601

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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The new Gourmet magazine has a gorgeous picture of a pumpkin stuffed with roasted vegetable stew. I can't wait to do it for my veghead friends on T Day.

They roast the pumpkin, too, it's beautiful.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/240601

I did that last year as a first course. Mini pumpkins as bowls for ratatouille.

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every year for Thanksgiving we have Enchiladas

(our two daughters were born in Santa Fe)

not traditional I guess but they go great with turkey!

green chile cheese enchiladas are perfect for your veggie guests as well as every one else ..

I make two pans and there are never leftovers

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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When my grandmother was still doing the cooking there was always lasagna and turkey for Thanksgiving...Christmas was lasagna and ham, so was Easter....getting a pattern? even 4th of July usually had at least Baked Ziti.

So I say either lasagna or baked ziti ( all the same ingrediants exept mix in a big bowl with cooked ziti instead of layering with lasagna noodles, 5 min -vs- 1 hour) And multi colored shreaded veg can be added to either for color.

A big vegetable gratin can be a side or veg main This is easiest if you have a mandoline or V-slicer

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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wow, great ideas--i especially like the faux beef wellington thought, that would be a fun curveball :)

though due to pragmatism, i may due lasagna or enchiladas. good, solid comfort food that everyone could enjoy (isn't that what thanksgiving is about?).

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Last year for a fish main at Thanksgiving I did seared halibut on a bed of pan-fried potatoes, corn, red bell peppers, and onions, with chipotle sour cream. The thing that was so great about it (besides being delicious) was that it went really well with other traditional Thanksgiving sides.

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Make a souffle for the vegetarian entree.

Don't serve separate courses, that maximizes the pain-in-the-ass aspect of dealing with picky eaters. Do a traditional groaning board service; that way, the vegetarian will be too busy scarfing up the somosas to worry about the charcuterie platter.

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Thinking about the government.

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I fail to see why you should cook seperately. They don't cook meat when you visit.

However some veggie spectaculars, that you can cut at:

Savoury roulade, like pumpkin or chestnut (uses eggs), tomato sauce

Wooton or other vegetarian pie, with veggie gravy

Veggie souffle

As a vegetarian who DOES cook meat when my non-vegetarian friends come over, I'd like to add my two cents.

I haven't eaten turkey in years, but even when I did, I was often so smitten by the veggies and other sides at Thanksgiving that I bypassed the turkey. Unless the vegetarians have requested their own main, it's really not necessary. It makes us look a little less weird when we have a huge dollop of sweet AND mashed potatoes!

Other thoughts...

Maple syrup sweet potato mash doesn't need butter or cream.

My MIL always makes asparagus with hollondaise on the side. Add it if you want it.

We always cook the stuffing outside of the bird so as not to dry the bird out. If you're an in the bird kind of person, set aside a bit to cook outside. If you put mushrooms in your stuffing, the anti-mushroom guest can pick around them. Or, forgo the shrooms this year.

Be sure to have some (it's ok if it's canned) vegetarian gravy on hand for the mashed potatoes. I usually bring my own and promise that they will really appreciate it if you remember.

We al

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A couple of ideas...

Cook's Illustrated, as I mentioned in another Thanksgiving thread, has a vegetable gravy that they swear is every bit as good as the real thing. It's in at least a couple of their cookbooks, if you have them, can borrow them, or can get to a library. If all else fails, PM me and I'll send you the recipe.

Also, Julia Child's potato and leek soup would be lovely at thanksgiving. It's just equal parts sliced potatoes and leeks, plus water to cover, and salt. Simmer until everything's soft, then puree in a blender or better yet, with a stick blender, leaving some good chunks. Adjust salt and stir in cream, sour cream, or butter. Couldn't be easier and you can make it ahead of time and reheat it.

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The "spectacular" options I can think of would just be too much to do, when you already have a full Thanksgiving meal to organize.

Easy options...some of the most elegant temple vegetarian cooking I know is served "stirfry" or "soup" style, but in fact the vegetables have all been cooked separately, then either mixed into the final sauce, or composed in the dish, and soup/sauce poured over - it really does look better that way, and avoids the "all tastes the same" problem.

Make vegetables to scatter over the top of dishes in advance - cut inch-thick pieces of carrot or daikon (giant radish) and cut them out with small vegetable or cookie cutters, or trim lotus root into petal shapes, then cut into thin slices. Blanch, and drop into sweetened vinegar* and keep a day or two in fridge. If you can get lotus root, trim chunks into petals, slice, blanch, and into sweetened vinegar. Blanch snowpeas, keep in fridge. Soak dried funghi and simmer in heavily seasoned soup. Scatter a few pine nuts or other nuts too - and a small chrysanthemums (all edible) few twigs of non-toxic red and green leaves, pine needles, grilled funghi etc look pretty too.

Sweet Mild Vinegar

2 tablespoons of mild vinegar (rice vinegar etc.)

1 tablespoon each of vegetarian stock and sugar

1.5 tsp soy sauce

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has anyone else checked out the stuffed pumpkin that was linked above? i don't know how it tastes, but talk about looking spectacular. what i think i've resolved to doing is a hybrid of my original plans and these great suggestions--appetizers, then soup, then groaning table of turkey/stuffed pumpkin/other traditional items, desert. i just have to be careful, since my oven (while awesome despite it's age) is on the small side. i may, out of necessity, smoke the bird (yep, got a bradley :)

oh, and all the vegetarians do cook beast because they all happen to have significant others who are omnis. and the lady who won't eat seafood regularly prepared it for her fisherman ex-husband :D

i'll be doing some dry runs this week, and if anything looks or tastes particularly spectacular i'll post some pictures--hopefully they won't get nominated for the awful looking food thread.

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I checked out the stuffed pumpkin and it really is beautiful. One more thought--Deborah Madison has lentils with wine-glazed vegetables in her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone--you could do that and top with puff pastry. It would be sufficiently impressive, go with other Thanksgiving food, and give the vegetarians their protein, too.

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I checked out the stuffed pumpkin and it really is beautiful. One more thought--Deborah Madison has lentils with wine-glazed vegetables in her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone--you could do that and top with puff pastry. It would be sufficiently impressive, go with other Thanksgiving food, and give the vegetarians their protein, too.

you guys are making me so hungry, i'm glad dinner is almost ready. i love all the vegetarian suggestions!

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How about a butternut squash lasagna - Giada De Laurentiis has a great recipe for it http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/re...6_29169,00.html

This could be nice because this dish could also be used as squash side dish for the other guests.

Also, if only one person can not eat eggs (and they eat poultry) you could make a savory ttart, turnover or gratin as the vegetarian "main dish". There are a lot of nice recipes in Annie Somerville's "Field of Greens". There is cheese in some of the recipes.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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