Vegetarian’s Best Food Holiday

By Marsha Fottler –

Surprise, the most food-friendly holiday of the year for vegetarians is Thanksgiving. Think about it; if you ignore the big bird on the table everything else there is a sumptuous melange of fruit and vegetables from mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing (sometimes two kinds), bean, corn, broccoli casseroles, cranberry sauce, pumpkin or squash soup, roasted chestnuts, homemade biscuits, you name it, it’s a huge garden of delights for the non-meat eater.

But, what is usually missing is that main dish to replace the turkey. My friend Larry Barrett, who is a chef and well-respected (and busy) caterer in my town has a favorite vegetarian main dish from the 20 years that he himself was a vegetarian and for his many clients who crave vegetarian recipes for their catered parties. Larry serves this dish with his special vegetarian gravy that he makes for his own Thanksgiving Day table for the non-meat eaters who gather at his home.

If you’re mixing vegetarian and carnivores at your holiday table this year, Larry’s recipe for vegetable cutlets could well be the star of the show. As for the gravy, make a big batch of Larry’s vegetarian gravy and divide it. For the meat eaters, add the turkey pan drippings to one batch and you’ve got it made. Remember to put the two kinds of gravies in different colored bowls or gravy boats when you serve.

Vegetable Cutlets
(Larry Barrett of Simply Gourmet, serves 6)

6 medium peeled Idaho potatoes
¼ cup butter
2 medium onions chopped
½ pound mushrooms chopped
1 pound chopped cooked carrots
1 pound chopped cooked green beans
1 pound uncooked peas (frozen)
1 finely chopped red pepper
4 large eggs mixed
2 cups matzo meal
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
Corn oil for frying

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Mash well. Sauté onion and mushroom in butter until they begin to brown slightly and pan is dry. Add red pepper just to soften. Place cooked mushrooms/onions/peppers into large mixing bowl. Mix in all other vegetables thoroughly. Let cool slightly. Add spices, 2 of the eggs and mix well. Add enough of the matzo meal so you can form the mixture into 12 patties. Dip patties into 2 beaten eggs and coat with matzo meal. Place cutlets in refrigerator and let rest for 10 minutes until firm. Heat oil in large sauté pan and fry at medium heat until light brown, then turn and cook the other side. Remove from heat when the croquettes are firm and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. You can make these a day before, they hold beautifully. Sauce with the roasted mushroom-vegetable gravy.

Vegetable Gravy
(Larry Barrett of Simply Gourmet)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons corn oil
2 cups rough chopped carrots
2 cups rough chopped onions
1 cup rough chopped celery
1 pound whole button mushrooms
3 Roma tomatoes (leave whole)
10 whole cloves peeled garlic
½ red wine
¼ cup soy sauce
6 cups vegetable bouillon
About ½ cup Wondra flour
Salt and pepper
Pinch of thyme
1 bay leaf

Toss all vegetables in butter/oil and place in roasting pan. Roast at 375 degrees until caramelized and a bit of browned vegetable fond covers the bottom of the pan. Place pan on high heat on stove top. Add red wine and scrape all the caramelized bits loose. Add 6 cups vegetable bouillon and the rest of the ingredients. Cook mixture until flavorful. Spice again to your liking. Strain through a fine strainer pressing on vegetables to get the last bit of flavor. Place back on burner and thicken with Wondra flour to desired consistency.

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