It's always a challenge to find a vegan centerpiece for special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. The spectacle of a turkey is such a traditional experience for most of us that replacing it requires a truly magnificent dish. Lasagna just won't cut it.
When I first became vegetarian, it was the subscription to Vegetarian Times that kept me supplied with original ideas for the holiday centerpiece. Every year they supplied in their November and December issues a couple of holiday main dishes, and, since there was no internet to speak of then, these options were welcome.
Our family's favorite over the years has been this seitan and stuffing loaf, covered with puff pastry, that appeared in the 1995 holiday edition of Vegetarian Times. Ironically, it was one of the first main dishes I made for our newly vegetarian holiday table, but it's still my family's most requested dish.
But when I was asked to make it this year, I knew it needed a bit of updating. Back in the nineties I'd never heard of tarragon, or even imagined that I could make my own seitan, nor did my pantry contain a magical ingredient called "liquid smoke."
I've updated the recipe, included an easy recipe for seitan, and upped the herb quotient considerably.
It's a pretty inpressive centerpiece, and I guarantee your family won't miss the turkey or the ham if you put this in front of them.
Keep reading for the recipe, and click here for a printable version.
1½ cups vital wheat gluten
¼ cup gram flour (chickpea flour or besan)
⅓ cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt (note: if the broth is not salted, use 1 teaspoon)
1½ cups vegetable or chicken-style vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
(Note: if you don’t have poultry seasoning, combine equal amounts sage, thyme and marjoram and add a dash of nutmeg.)
In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients ingredients. Combine the liquid ingredients, including the liquid smoke, in a measuring cup.
Stir the broth mix into the dry mix.
When the mixture is combined, knead with wet hands for 5 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest. (At this point you can boil the water in the steamer.)
Then form the dough into a rough log shape.
Cut the log into 4 pieces. Wrap each piece in aluminum foil.
Place the 4 pieces into a steamer basket. Steam for 30 minutes.
Remove from steamer and set aside to cool (or refrigerate if not using right away).
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
Cut the seitan into 1 - 2 inch pieces and place in a flat dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the seitan. Let sit for 4 - 8 hours in the refrigerator.
Note: Liquid smoke is available from some online retailers in the UK.
2 loaves bread, preferably whole wheat or ½ whole wheat ½ white
2 onions, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped fine (no more than ¼ inch)
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth, plus more if necessary
Cut bread into cubes and allow to dry. (Either leave the cubes out overnight or dry them in a very low oven for 1 hour.)
Melt margarine in a skillet. Add onion, celery and carrot. Stir in the olive oil.
Saute over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until carrots are soft. Stir in the herbs in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Transfer the mire poix (the onion/carrot/celery mixture) to a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss. (Note: you may not need all the bread cubes; I typically use about 1 ½ loaves. Play it by ear and don't add the full amount until you've stirred the mirepoix into about half the cubes.)
Add the broth and stir to incorporate throughout. (Again, don't add the full amount all at once. How much broth you need will depend on how dry your bread is.)
1 tablespoon margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour (sauce flour, if you have it)
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium is best)
Melt the margarine in a sauté pan. Add the olive oil and the shallot. Cook over very low heat until the shallot is soft, about 20 minutes.
Combine the stock and the soy sauce; set aside.
Stir the flour into the oil and as soon as it's incorporated into the shallot mixture (a paste will form) stir in the stock, slowly adding more as the liquid is incorporated into the oil/flour mixture.
Stir with a wire whisk until the mixture is thickened, about 5-10 minutes.
If desired, you can add a little more soy sauce to get a darker colored gravy.
Note: For the stock/soy sauce mixture, you can use the leftover seitan marinade if your seitan has marinated long enough.
1 or 2 sheets puff pastry (see note)
soy milk for brushing the top
Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place seitan pieces in an oblong mound in the center of the pan, layering with about a cup of the gravy. Pile the moistened bread cubes over the seitan, pressing down with your hands.
Roll the puff pastry sheet until it's large enough to cover the seitan/stuffing mixture. If you use two sheets, layer one over the other. Cut out decorative leaf shapes with the excess puff pastry from the edges. Place the decorative shapes over the seam or around the edges.
Brush the puff pastry with soy milk.
Preheat oven to 350. Bake the centerpiece for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. If the crust starts to brown, cover with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a large platter. Cut in slices and cut the slices in half for serving sized portions. Serve with extra brown gravy.
Note: We found one piece of puff pastry was enough, when rolled thin, and since that was how much came in the British package, that’s all we used. American puff pastry (check to see that it’s vegan) may contain more than one sheet. You may prefer to use two sheets in order to have extra for decorative purposes. If you have leaf cookie cutters, these are idea for cutting out the shapes. Otherwise trace a holly shape onto the pastry and cut with a sharp knife.