Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Vegetarian Adventures without a Recipe

Our Thanksgiving adventure began early in November when my sister posted a link on my son's Facebook page to an Epicurious blog post. The title: How to Make Vegducken.

My sister is an organic farmer in Northern Vermont, and a vegetarian. Two of my kids are now vegetarians as well, and they took this post from her as a challenge.

Except... if you go read the blog post, it's more of a rant than a recipe. No, really. A good rant, and anti-tofu loaf rant, but a rant nonetheless. Still a challenge. Which we accepted.

First, we scoured the post to make a list of ingredients. Shopping and assembling were done without true direction, just going by the pictures. Oven temps? Time-to-cook? To use the food processor or not to use the food processor? These were all questions hovering somewhere near the kitchen ceiling, elusive and unanswered until we chose a path.

The author wrote that the outer layer was a Butternut Squash, stuffed with an eggplant, stuffed with a zucchini. No problem. Except for the part about hollowing them out with a spoon. The kids found that a bit tedious. But hey, they're the vegetarians, not me. We left the skin on the Butternut, but peeled the other two veggies.

All those scrapings then got combined and chopped in the Cuisinart, along with chopped garlic, shallots, mushrooms and onion. It looked a little like veggie pate when it was blended. And then it got sauteed in a frying pan with butter...

Okay, it wasn't terribly pretty when it was put together. Each section was filled with stuffing, then the next layer was brushed with melted butter and snuggled into place, filled with stuffing, etc. A very large scallion nestled into the very center - not in the original recipe, but then again, there really isn't a recipe to follow.

The two halves were fitted together, and tied up with kitchen twine. I was actually on the phone with my brother in law, saying Happy Thanksgiving and whatnot, when the kids screamed that they needed help with the tying. The "kids" are 15 and 17. Really? Can't tie a knot? I apologized and hung up. I tied the knots.

Okay, so our family "secret recipe" for cooking chicken or turkey is to add beer in the bottom of the pan to help keep it moist. We figured what the heck, beer will work for vegducken just the same way, right? No, the kids did not drink any. Cooking purposes only.

So then we're into a big grey area - what temperature? How long? Covered or uncovered? We chose 400 degrees, one hour and covered with foil to help steam. We also timed it to be finished a little after the turkey was done cooking (yes, we also cooked a turkey. We have a double oven and it's not Thanksgiving without turkey, no matter what my sisters say.) I made vegetarian gravy ahead of time, using vegetable stock, chopped onion and mushrooms, flour and spices. (It turned out really well. It was a good gravy day.)
The blog article shows the vegducken sliced into rounds and served on a platter. So that's what we did. It didn't come out as pretty as in the picture, but then again, we're not Epicurious. We're just an author and her veggie kids.
Was it tasty? You betcha. Was it worth the time and effort? Ummm, no, not according to the kids who did most of the work. It was good. But not fabulous. 

It did, however, make for a fun Thanksgiving day in the kitchen.

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