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DINNER PLANS

Who Needs the Bird?

November 21, 1996|DONNA DEANE | TIMES TEST KITCHEN DIRECTOR

Whether you're a veteran vegetarian or new to making meatless meals, planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner that satisfies everyone at the table is a challenge.

Of course, the hardest part is coming up with an alternative to the big bird. Instead of tofu that tries--and rarely succeeds--to taste like turkey, serve vegetable potpies as your main course. Everyone gets a pie full of rich broth and seasonal vegetables that are steamed separately to retain their individual flavors.

Letting the vegetables stand overnight in the vegetable stock gives the gravy more flavor. Poultry seasoning gives the pies a traditional "Thanksgiving" taste. If you want a little more meat texture in the pies, add some cubed tofu.

Cranberries, oranges and fresh sage flavor the wild rice salad. Stir toasted pecans into the salad at the last minute so they'll stay crisp.

Round out the menu with such traditional family Thanksgiving favorites as homemade breads, cranberry sauce, whipped potatoes, relish trays or perhaps a crunchy green salad.

End the meal on a warm, cozy note by serving custard baked apples a la mode for dessert.

MENU

Vegetable Potpie With Puff Pastry Tops

Cranberry Orange Wild Rice Salad

Custard Baked Apple

STAPLES

Olive oil

Salt

Black peppercorns

Bay leaves

Flour

Poultry seasoning

Butter

Eggs

Milk

Sugar

Vanilla extract

Nutmeg

Pumpkin pie spice

SHOPPING LIST

2 large onions

1 large bag carrots

1 bunch celery

4 leeks

2 heads garlic

1/2 pound mushrooms

1 bunch thyme

1 small head napa cabbage

1 pound red boiling potatoes

2 rutabagas

1 small pumpkin

2 turnips

1 pound button mushrooms

1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas

1 (1-pound, 1 1/4-ounce) box puff pastry sheets

1 (6-ounce) bag pecan halves

1 (6-ounce) bottle wild rice

1 (3-ounce) package dried cranberries

1 bunch sage

3 oranges

Ornamental kale, optional

6 apples

1 lemon

1 pint whipping cream

1 pint French vanilla ice cream

GAME PLAN

Day before dinner: Make vegetable stock and refrigerate overnight. Make wild rice salad without pecans; cover and refrigerate.

Morning before: Steam vegetables and bake puff pastry tops.

Afternoon before: Prepare baked apples. Strain vegetable stock and prepare vegetable gravy. Toast pecans for wild rice salad.

30 minutes before: Stir toasted pecans into wild rice salad and spoon onto ornamental kale.

15 minutes before: Put puff pastry tops and baked apples in oven to warm. Reheat vegetable gravy; stir in steamed vegetables and divide into individual casserole dishes. Remove ice cream from freezer to soften.

Just before: Put warm pastry top on each potpie and serve along with salad.

After main course: Stir ice cream in bowl to soften enough to spoon onto serving plates then sprinkle over pumpkin pie spice. Top each with warm apple and serve.

VEGETABLE POTPIE WITH PUFF PASTRY TOPS

ROASTED VEGETABLE STOCK

2 cups onions, cut into wedges

3 cups carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

2 cups celery, cut into 1-inch chunks

4 cups leeks, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup whole cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

1 gallon water

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs thyme

2 cups sliced napa cabbage

VEGETABLE GRAVY

5 cups Roasted Vegetable Stock

10 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 cup butter

2 teaspoons salt or to taste

Cracked black pepper

1 pound red boiling potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 pound pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

2 turnips, peeled and cut into wedges

2 rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1 pound button mushrooms

1/2 (10-ounce) box frozen peas, thawed

ASSEMBLY

1 (1-pound, 1 1/4-ounce) box puff pastry sheets, thawed according to package directions

1 egg, beaten

ROASTED VEGETABLE STOCK

Put onions, carrots, celery, leeks and garlic in shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste and toss well to combine. Roast at 450 degrees until vegetables begin to brown, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add roasted vegetables to stock pot with water. Add mushrooms, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat about 45 minutes. Add cabbage during last 15 minutes of cooking. Cool stock and refrigerate overnight. Next day, strain to make 5 cups stock.

VEGETABLE GRAVY

Heat Roasted Vegetable Stock to boiling. Combine flour, poultry seasoning and butter to make smooth paste and drop bit by bit into boiling broth while stirring. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Steam vegetables individually until tender: potatoes, pumpkin and turnips about 15 minutes, rutabagas about 20 minutes, and mushrooms about 5 minutes. When all vegetables are steamed, stir into hot vegetable gravy along with peas.

ASSEMBLY

Open pastry sheets on very lightly floured board. Press together and smooth out seams. Cut out 6 pastry rounds with 4-inch cutter; brush with beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees on ungreased baking sheet until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.

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