Thanksgiving is a great time for those of us who love to cook. That is, until one of your guests announces he's a vegetarian or vegan. Suddenly the best laid plans have a wrench thrown into them. Should you buy a separate and expensive faux-turkey soy food shaped thingy just for them or just feed them extra starchy side dishes and hope they don't ask if there's turkey stock in the stuffing?
The solution doesn't have to involve highly processed soy products or short changing your vegetarian/vegan guests. I should know, I'm a cookbook author who married a vegetarian.
After a few years of marriage and many separate meals, I've sorted out a way to cook satisfying meals that feed both vegetarians/vegans and omnivores without short changing anyone or doing a lot of extra cooking.
Take the Thanksgiving Day solution here. Make a moist, apple-studded cornbread dressing using vegetable broth. Add veggie sausage. Stuff some of the dressing into a butterflied turkey breast (have your butcher do the hard work, if you like) and tuck the rest of the dressing into Delicata squash boats for your vegetarian friends. Bake both dishes at the same time, and voila, everyone gets an excellent meal!
Though this mixed-diet conundrum is more common during the holidays when folks have visitors, there are a growing number of us who are faced with cooking mixed-diet meals every day. For those of you in the same boat as Mr. Tofu and me, I give you The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans and Omnivores At Your Table (Sasquatch Books, 2009) (see The Kitchn's review here). Find it at my website, online and at brick and mortar bookshops nationwide. You can also get an idea of what Adaptable Feast cooking is about by visiting my blog, Ivy's Feast.
Turkey Breast and Delicata Squash Stuffed with Apple Cornbread Dressing
Serves 6 omnivores and 2 vegetarians as a main course
6 cups cubed cornbread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups minced onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
3 cups mild vegetable broth
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
8 ounces Granny Smith apples (1 large), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 vegetarian sausages (4 ounces), finely chopped (such as Field Roast Grain Meat Company's Italian sausages)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless turkey breast half (skin on)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 medium Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy bits discarded
1 cup warm water or stock
Prepare the cornbread several hours or up to 3 days before making the dressing. Preheat the oven to 250 F.
Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch squares and spread them evenly on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the cubes are golden brown and dry, about 1 hour, stirring once while baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the onion and celery, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and poultry seasoning and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add 2 cups of the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Place the mixture in a large bowl and combine with the cornbread cubes, parsley, and apples.
Return the pan to medium heat, add the butter and when it has melted, add the vegetarian sausages. Sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add to the cornbread mixture and toss gently to combine. Season with the salt and pepper to taste and let stand for 10 minutes. Add additional stock to moisten the dressing if necessary; set aside.
To stuff the turkey breast, place the turkey breast skin-side down on a cutting board with the narrow end towards you. Use a boning knife, insert the tip of the knife in the thickest end (the end farthest from you) and cut the breast in half lengthwise without going all the way through the meat. Turn the knife horizontally and cut the beast meat to the left side in half, do not cut all the way through the meat, so you have a hinge. Open up left side of the breast, as if opening a book. Repeat with the right side of the turkey breast so that you have a rough rectangle of meat. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of 1/2-inch. Season with salt and pepper. Place about 1 1/2 cups of the stuffing in the center of the turkey breast, leaving a 1-inch border at the edges. Fold the end nearest you up and over the stuffing, tucking your fingers under to enclose the stuffing. Roll up into a cylinder, tucking in ends if necessary and wrapping the skin around the outside of the roast. Roast tie at 2-inch intervals.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet or oven safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey breast skin side down and cook until browned, 4 minutes. Turn and brown lightly on all sides. Transfer pan to the oven.
Brush the cut sides of the delicata squash with the remaining oil, season with the salt and pepper, and place them cut side up in a baking dish. Mound about 3/4 cup of dressing into each squash boat. Add 1 cup of warm water or stock to the bottom of the dish and cover tightly with foil and transfer to oven. Mound remaining stuffing into a small gratin dish and cover tightly with tin foil, transfer to oven.
Roast the turkey breast until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 F when inserted in the center, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Remove the turkey from the oven and transfer to a platter, tent with foil and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes. While the turkey rests, remove the tin foil from the squash and extra stuffing and bake for 10 minutes uncovered so the tops of the stuffing crisps.
Vegan variation: Substitute olive oil for the butter in the stuffing.
(Recipe adapted from The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans and Omnivores At Your Table, by Ivy Manning. Sasquatch Books, 2009)
Thank you for sharing, Ivy!
(Images: Gregor Torrence/Sasquatch Books)