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Turkey Day, Without the Turkey

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For obvious reasons, Thanksgiving can easily be thought of as a problematic holiday for vegetarians. In the center of most families' tables, inevitably, sits a large dead bird. In it, the second mainstay of the meal: stuffing. Beside it, pan drippings reduced into velvety gravy that's meant to drown all other meatless options on the table.

I've never dabbled in vegetarianism, but when I think of my dad's Thanksgiving plate, and of Cara's before she came back over to the dark side of carnivorism, I don't feel that bad for them. The holiday may be nicknamed "turkey day," but as far as I'm concerned, the turkey is the one dish I wouldn't mind doing without. On my plate, its main purpose is to be a vehicle for all the other, much more delicious dishes.


When Cara and I discussed the idea of developing a vegetarian main course for Thankgiving, we knew it would have to occupy the center of the plate in its own right. My mind landed on the portobello mushroom, which is often substantial enough to replace beef in between a burger bun, and "meaty" enough to be a main course main event all on its own. Since many turkey day cooks actually stuff their stuffing inside the bird (we've always made ours separate), this vegetarian main would have to be stuffed as well.

The resulting portobello mushroom caps were so delicious, I would be happy to welcome them on my plate in place of the old bird. The Parmesan-herb stuffing becomes crispy on top, while staying moist in the middle, and the mushrooms release their own gravy-esque juices when you cut into them. If you want to create actual gravy to go with, try your favorite recipe using mushroom stock or broth instead of pan drippings.

Either way, these stuffed mushrooms are a great excuse to gobble down your Thanksgiving dinner, without having to eat something that once said gobble gobble to you. And, if your kitchen is small and your oven unfriendly to something so massive as a turkey, you might think about going vegetarian in any case. It's easier if you're hosting for the first time, and more budget friendly.

--Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen


Portobello Mushrooms with Parmesan-Herb Stuffing

Makes 2 servings

2 large portobello mushroom caps
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups cubed crusty bread
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange the portobello caps on a work surface. Remove the stems, and brush broth sides of each cap with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the mushrooms (belly-side up) on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes, until browned and tender.

In the meantime, warm the butter in a small Dutch oven or sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the thyme, and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer for another few minutes, until the alcohol burns off. Set aside to cool.

Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 3 minutes, until crusty but not browned. Add the bread to the cooled onion mixture along with the parsley, egg, Parmesan, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss to combine.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven. Divide the stuffing between the two caps, pressing down to create a compact mound. Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F, and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top of the stuffing is crusty and brown.

Sprinkle with additional parmesan and parsley and serve.

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