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Spectacular vegetarian Christmas entree?

I've been veg for 20 years, so have been around the block, but would love any suggestions for something decadent and lovely. This will accompany a traditional Xmas dinner spread (stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, turkey, etc.) at my parents' house and be an additional course for 4 vegetarians and 2 carnivores. Two of the four are my kids, but they are relatively adventurous and also we don't really worry that much about them anyway--there will be plenty on the table.

In the past I've done spanakopita and butternut squash lasagna. Something with a tart crust or some other lovely buttery substrate is always nice. ;) Calories no concern. Not looking to go vegan here--we eat dairy and eggs. No pasta maker at that house, or I'd do a fresh ravioli.

I am a very experienced cook and pretty willing to tackle anything. This is also a nice time for something with pricey ingredients that I might not normally spring for.

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  1. I'm a meat eater, but I'm hoping a vegetarian family member will bring Field Roast's Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute. I'm sure you could make a vegetarian Wellington from scratch, or perhaps a vegi strudel?


    4 Replies
    1. re: Jeri L

      have you tried that roast? It does look good. I like the Field Roast stuff generally, though I tend to be picky about fake meat.

      1. re: loraxc

        I haven't,, but their hazelnut herb cutlets are wonderful and I expect it's same base.

        1. re: Jeri L

          We served this at Thanksgiving this year. The presentation was nice and the pastry cooked up perfectly. The taste was not that much different from the field roast we usually get (sage and butternut I think). It definitely did not wow me.

      2. re: Jeri L

        Was just going to suggest strudel. Just keep the filling fairly dry -- no watery veg like eggplant -- or the pastry will get soggy.

      3. I adore this mushroom bourguignon; it is wonderfully decadent, gorgeous and special.
        It might be too simple for you, but really it is marvelous!

        Also, this wild mushroom and stilton galette is a winner:

        I have served both at holidays to rave reviews. You can of course sub other cheese if someone is silly enough to not adore stilton!

        1 Reply
        1. re: magiesmom

          The bourgignon sounds quite tasty but perhaps not wowish enough? I'd like to try it, though!

          The galette looks awesome. Perfect suggestion--exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for!

        2. In my not so humble opinion, the best vegetarian recipes on the web are at www.vegsoc.org. This is the website of the British Vegetarian Society. They are unafraid of cream and nuts, which is what make vegetarian main courses really rich and delicious. Of course, you can find recipes without those ingredients, but they will all be imaginative, decadent and really delicious. Just click on the Christmas Recipes tab and look thru their archives for past Christmases.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Isolda

            Hmm! Have never even been to that site. Off to poke.

          2. I made this wild mushroom bread pudding for my vegetarian friends at Thanksgiving, and it was received with oohing, aahing raves:


            I used a stale baguette with the crusts on, doubled the mushrooms (and included chanterelles), increased the cheese and baked it in a 4 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven. It looked beautiful served right in the dutch oven and tasted even better. I made a rich mushroom gravy to go with it, and though it was gilding the lily, my friends loved it.

            If you want to make it even more special, you could bake it in a pumpkin, a la Dorie Greenspan's stuffed pumpkin:


            3 Replies
            1. re: TorontoJo

              I have that one in my Epciurious box! Never made it, though--I think the richness of the ingredients spooked me, but hell, it's Christmas.

              1. re: loraxc

                It's rich, but well worth it. I did use more milk and less cream with no loss of fabulousness. My friends said it was really rich, but then proceeded to help themselves to seconds. :)

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  I also make this and use only lactose-free whole milk. The lactose free milk is slightly sweeter and richer tasting, but not as fatty as cream.

              1. re: piccola

                You know, I did try that recipe once and for some reason it just didn't work for me. I was disappointed because it looked awesome.

                1. re: loraxc

                  Aw, boo! I've had good luck with it, but I did tinker with it quite a bit (as I usually do).

              2. How about Gourmet Satchels (instead of beggars' purses ;) )
                Saute shallots and garlic in butter. Add sliced wild mushrooms and peeled and sliced/chopped Jerusalem artichokes. Cook some barley in water/veggie stock; drain and stir in as well. Feel free to also add some chopped roasted chestnuts. Add in a little truffle oil, sherry (or some other sweet) vinegar, tarragon. Take out veggie filo dough, and put a few sheets down. Spoon some mushroom filling in the center, and fold up the filo to enclose and secure it with a chive. Brush the outsides with melted butter and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Then bake at 425 til golden and crisp.

                1. Did you see the NY Times feature on veg food for Thanksgiving? I'm not even veg and it looked amazing--sophisticated and delicious. Just look:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: christy319

                    I did, yes. I don't know why, but nothing main-dish there quite grabbed me.

                  2. I think whole stuffed vegetables are incredibly elegant and delicious--like a tray of stuffed artichokes, or eggplant halves, or the whole Savoy cabbage steamed and then tied and baked with filling between the leaves (traditional recipes often contain sausage or ground meat, but you could sub mushrooms or seitan) or a stuffed pumpkin. A tray of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes stuffed and baked is traditional in the Mediterranean.

                    I also just had this idea, which is really just an idea, not a recipe. But when I was a kid, for extra special occasions we would get a bakery custard pie that had different quadrants of fruit on top--a area of glazed blueberries, one of strawberries, one of peaches, one of pears.

                    What if you did that with a savory tart and topped it with a quadrant of glazed carrots, of chestnuts, of roasted radishes--well, you get the picture.

                    1 Reply
                    1. I realize you stated that you've served butternut squash lasagna in the past, but I just made one that is so decadent and delicious, I though you might be interested in my version. I began with a recipe from sources unknown, but I changed the ingredients, the quantities, and the procedures so much that I can claim this as original. Please overlook the rather basic tone of the notes at the end of the recipe. I was so pleased with the results, that I wrote out my detailed recipe to send to a niece who is both veg and a novice cook.

                      Butternut Squash Lasagna with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola Cheese

                      3 tablespoons olive oil
                      2 (8 oz) packages crimini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
                      1 package butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice (See note)
                      2 large onions, cut into large dice (See note)
                      Béchamel Sauce, warmed (See recipe below)
                      1 9-ounce box par-cooked lasagna noodles (See note)
                      6 ounces shredded Fontina cheese
                      3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small pieces
                      1 ½ (9 oz) bags fresh spinach, sauteed (See note below)
                      Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

                      1. Saute mushrooms until they have given off all their liquid and begun to brown. When cooked, transfer mushrooms to large mixing bowl and set aside.

                      2. Caramelize onions. When cooked add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

                      3. Saute squash until browned. Add to the bowl with the mixed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

                      4. Spread 1/4 cup of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles, breaking the noodles as necessary to fit them in an even layer. Evenly spread half of the vegetable mixture over the pasta.

                      5. Pour 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce evenly over the vegetables. Cover the vegetables with a layer of grated Fontina cheese and half the Gorgonzola broken up into small bits. Repeat with another layer of noodles, the remaining squash mixture, 1/2 cup béchamel, some Fontina cheese, and the remaining Gorgonzola. Finish with a last layer of noodles, the sauteed spinach, the remaining béchamel sauce, Fontina cheese, and generous amounts of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

                      6. Cover the baking dish well with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Take the lasagna out of the refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake 50-55 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until the top is brown and the noodles are completely tender, about 15 minutes more. Allow the lasagna to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

                      Bechamel Sauce:

                      2 ½ cups milk (See note)
                      5 tablespoons unsalted butter
                      5 tablespoons flour
                      1/4 cup Madeira (or Marsala)
                      2 tablespoons Maple Mustard (See note)
                      salt and pepper to taste

                      Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk vigorously to break up all lumps. Let the butter-flour cook over medium heat stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes or over lower heat 4-5 minutes stirring every minute. Add the milk in very a very slow stream pausing often to let the milk warm up (or preheat the milk). Whisk as milk is added. Continue to cook sauce to thicken. Add Madeira, blending well and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add the mustard, combine well and simmer 2-3 minutes. Set aside.


                      I used the fresh package of peeled butternut squash. I think the quantity is 23 oz. The squash comes in irregular chunks and I cut these pieces into small dice.

                      I cooked all my lasagna noodles in the box but that was a waste. I only needed a total of 12 noodles -- four strips per layer. I laid three next to one another no overlap and split the fourth noodle lengthwise to fill in the gap. Par-cooked means boiling the noodles four minutes. Do not cook them fully.

                      I used bagged spinach, but looked for a brand with leaves slightly larger than baby spinach which is too small for this use. Although I've specified 1 1/2 bags of spinach, I can't see any reason you couldn't use all the spinach; it cooks down significantly and the taste is a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash and the caramelized onions.

                      I caramelize onions using only the natural sugar of the vegetable, although plenty of recipes call for sugar. My trick is to cook the onions covered in some clarified butter or oil over the lowest possible heat for much longer than you think appropriate. Do not be surprised if this quantity of onions takes 30-35 minutes. Uncover the onions at intervals throughout the cooking process and stir them. You'll know you've caramelized your onions when they are a pale golden color. You'll sometimes see this process called sweating onions. Whatever the name, the process results in sweet-tasting onions but the time involved is insane. I use this technique whenever onions are called for in a recipe.

                      I used Stonewall Kitchens Maple Champagne Mustard which has a hint of sweetness, but isn't overly sweet. However, I'm going to experiment with Stonewall Kitchen's other mustard varieties. The blue cheese version might pick up the Gorgonzola already in the recipe. The roasted garlic version might work, too. The only mustard I might avoid is one that is strongly vinegar-y like a hot dog yellow mustard or, even, a vinegary Dijon mustard.

                      I used 2% milk. There's plenty of richness from the cheese!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Indy 67

                        What a great recipe Indy! I have a sis that is veg and I try to accommodate her - She's always loved my veggie lasagna but I'm going to have to try this. The extra notes are well appreciated.

                      2. What about a decadent creamy risotto or homemade linguine with fresh white truffles imported from Alba Italy? It will cost a few pennies, but could be on target for what you are looking for.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: marsprincess

                          You know, I have never cooked with truffles. That would be a fun ingredient. I know zippo about them, though.

                          1. re: loraxc

                            speaking of risotto:

                            or you could do a really cheesy, decadent wild mushroom risotto.

                            or a rich & hearty wild mushroom ragout over creamy, cheesy polenta.

                            1. re: loraxc

                              Not much too it really - you just need a good truffle and a mandolin slicer. In Italy when it is white truffle season in many restaurants you order the base for the truffles - from eggs, to pasta to risotto - and then the waiter comes to your table with the truffle and slices pieces off directly onto your plate (each little swipe costs about €10 Euros) and off he goes. But the result - heaven. I once was in Bordeaux during the black truffle season and went to a lovely restaurant where they have a truffle menu. Each course featured truffles. My favorite though was the 1st course which comprised of potatoes poached in cream infused with truffles and then a few sliced truffles on top. The dish was served in mason jars which when opened steamed into your face with the aroma of truffles. Pure magic.

                              I guess the biggest problem for you is probably getting the truffles as their shelf-life is very short....

                              Anyway, good luck with your menu. Be sure to let us know how it comes out and what you finally end up making.

                              1. re: loraxc

                                One of the nice things about white truffles is that you don't cook them -- simply shave onto portions of risotto, scrambled egg, whatever.

                            2. I have been wanting to try this recipe for aaaages because it looks absolutely amazing!
                              Leek and sweet potato roulade with chestnut and cranberry stuffing

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ursy_ten

                                I'll be trying this nut roast:

                                for a New Year's Eve dinner.

                                1. re: serah

                                  That sounds great - thanks for sharing the recipe :)

                                  1. re: serah

                                    that does sound terrific! added to recipe folder :)

                                  2. re: ursy_ten

                                    That stuffing looks delish, but I'm not feeling egg part of the roulade...hmm....maybe could stuff something else with that.

                                  3. My friend has made this butternut squash and mushroom wellington a few times now and she loves it...http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/din...

                                    1. Creole stuffed eggplant, or a huge platter of a variety of stuffed veg: eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes. You could do eggplants Creole, feta-and-rice stuffed zucchini, pimiento/anchovy/breadcrumbs for the onions, and spinach/smoked gouda/crumbs in the tomatoes.

                                      1. See, I love aubergine/eggplant, zucchini and all that but it's the middle of winter and it's pretty difficult to get decent tasting ones around here now - the aubergines in particular have really fluffy insides which aren't exactly bursting with flavour.

                                        I'm also toying with the idea of making a nut wellington - make up a nut loaf filling, add some cranberries or cheese and then wrapping in some puff pastry.

                                        1. I think this may be too pedestrian for your goal, but I've made wonderful sausage/peppers/onions in tomato sauce with Field Roast sausage -- that my carnivores didn't realize was vegetarian until I revealed.

                                          Plus I finished and served in a crockpot. You could fancy up as desired.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: DuchessNukem

                                            Thanks for this rec. I saw Field Roast sausage today at Whole Foods, but didn't buy it. I'll get some the next time I'm there.

                                            1. re: DuchessNukem

                                              I'll second the field roast sausage recomendation. We've only tried the sausages, the apple is favorite, closely followed by the Italian. The chorizo wasn't as good, but perhaps for another purpose?

                                              I've been vegetarian for decades so god know what these taste like to a meat-eater, but my father (big meat eater) and husband (on/off vegetarian) both like them too.

                                            2. At my husband's request I am building our christmas dinner around Serious Eats' Onion Custard Pie with the addition of sliced apple. It's incredibly rich and completely decadent ... not at all what you'd expect. I get requests for this every year at thanksgiving ... it's the one repeat I happily oblige.

                                              Recipe: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: odkaty

                                                Oh man, my husband would love that. And he's due home in four hours. And I have all the ingredients on hand. I'm on it!

                                              2. An individual plate sized yorkshire pudding filled with roast veg smothered in a vegetable gravy - yum

                                                1. I had 25 for Thanksgiving this year, and the group included Vegans and Vegetarians. One of the vegetarians brought a Nut Loaf from Deborah Madison/Greens restaurant. It sounded weird to me, looked like a meatloaf (you slice it like a meatloaf and pour a sauce over it) and it was truly one fo the most wonderful things I've eaten in the last year or two. It is a lot of work but, wow, is it worth it. The sauce was wonderful as well:


                                                  1. This is such a great thread. I am feeling very inspired to make a fabulous veg entree for Thanksgiving this year. The last several holidays I have made the Martha Stewart Green Bean Casserole -- http://www.marthastewart.com/340211/g... .

                                                    At first glance it seems a little bit pedestrian, but it is so delicious it always receives accolades from omnivores and vegetarians alike, and it is very substantial. The fried shallot rings on top are what really make it (I mix Old Bay into the coating flour instead of salt and pepper, which is nice).

                                                    For me it's time to mix it up a bit, but I highly recommend giving this one a try.

                                                      1. re: loraxc

                                                        They both look wonderful, but the Wellington strikes me as more of a special occasion/holiday dish, so if it was me I'd probably go with that one. You usually can't go wrong with Melissa Clark's recipes, and if I could eat puff pastry I'd be all over it! The only potential drawbacks might be the volume of food you end up with and the time/labor involved - the torta seems more substantial, and would be easier to make in advance if you need to.

                                                        1. re: loraxc

                                                          The wellington is a true show stopper. I made a mushroom one for xmas last year and it was a hit with everyone, not just the vegetarians.

                                                          1. re: loraxc

                                                            Thanks for linking to my post about the wellington! It is a great dish - you are right about Ms. Clark's recipes, they are generally winners - was so glad she agreed to let me share it on my blog. I have included it 3 times on my Thanksgiving menu and all carnivores devoured it right alongside the vegetarians. It's easy to prepare the elements ahead of time and even stuff the puff pastry in the morning, refrigerate, and just bake-off at the last minute. The goat cheese with the butternut squash and mushrooms is just divine. Having said that, Greg's recipes are also terrific as are his blog posts and photos so I wouldn't hesitate to try that either. The wellington does make a nice presentation on a buffet. Have fun with both recipes!

                                                          2. My sister and I made this Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Roll-ups dish recently for some guests who were vegetarian. They loved it, and so did we:


                                                            We added some sauteed mushrooms, onions and red pepper flakes to the sauce.