This post comes courtesy of Williams-Sonoma food buyer Allyson Holt.
Thanksgiving planning is something I actually look forward to every year. All year long, I clip recipes from magazines and websites and flip through my favorite cookbooks, looking for new twists on family favorites.
Growing up, our table always included Auntie Bev’s yams with marshmallows and my mother’s sausage-spiked stuffing. We’re a little more adventurous at our house today but always have to have one pumpkin pie — again, my mom’s recipe — plus an apple pie for me! Everyone has an opinion about what absolutely must be on the table. Sometimes planning Thanksgiving also means taking into account diet restrictions including gluten and dairy intolerances, nut and other allergies. And sometimes, as hosts, we need to consider dietary preferences such as vegan and vegetarian diets.
This year, we’ve extended an invitation to my brother and his family to join us for Thanksgiving. We’re delighted they are joining us for the big turkey day, although the visit definitely requires some additional planning when it comes to the menu. His wife Tara has been a vegetarian for years, although she has recently added fish and poultry to her diet. She’s planning on tasting the turkey this year, but I am still adding in a couple of delicious side dishes that are completely vegetarian and I know she will love!
- Stuffing: I always include a vegetarian option for a stuffing by using nuts instead of sausage and substituting vegetable stock for chicken or turkey stock.
- Soup: I also serve a vegetarian soup as a starter course, such as carrot, chestnut or mushroom, making sure to use either vegetable or mushroom stock for the base.
- Mashed potatoes: I whip up the mashed potatoes with a little vegetable stock, roasted garlic, milk and butter.
- Vegetable sides: I always include at least two different vegetable sides, one that could be served as a main course as well as a side dish — squash stuffed or tossed with pasta, rice, grains, aromatic vegetables, bread crumbs and sometimes cheese.
- Gravy: I like to offer one vegetarian option for gravy, along with my husband’s favorite turkey and giblet gravy.
Among my favorite new products this year and a definite must in my Thanksgiving pantry is Williams-Sonoma’s savory and rich Mushroom Gravy Base. It’s a completely vegetarian mix of sautéed portobella mushrooms with roasted onions, sherry wine, herbs and spices. It’s simple to prepare: just mix two parts gravy with one part milk and one part water, whisk over medium heat until heated through, and it’s ready to serve.
I not only plan on serving this as a delicious gravy for mashed potatoes, but I was also inspired to see what other delicious dishes I could create from the rich sauce. My plan was to use the sauce to create three different mushroom dishes that could be used as part of any Thanksgiving menu.
All of the recipes below are delicious, hearty, rich and complex — yet quick and easy to prepare. The research this weekend helped finalize my menu for the big day; we’re starting with the Creamy Mushroom Soup!
|Creamy Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms are sauteed, simmered and pureed with creme fraiche for a warm, earthy bowl of creamy mushroom goodness.
|Mushroom & Cheese Lasagna
This dish is a great twist on a classic. I simply took one of my favorite traditional lasagna recipes and replaced the marinara with a sauce made from the Mushroom Gravy Base.
I like to add other ingredients to this dish for added richness, such as sautéed chicken breast, crispy bacon or sautéed prosciutto.
About the author: My passion is to share with others great foods, recipes, and culinary inspirations. Today, in my role as food buyer for Williams-Sonoma, I travel the world seeking the best foods, ingredients, and artisanal producers. I then bring these same products to our stores to share with our customers. Prior to my experience at Williams-Sonoma, my husband and I launched a gourmet retail business in Ashland, Oregon. The most satisfying aspect of my previous role was the time that I spent teaching home chefs of all levels how to use the best ingredients to create memorable meals and dishes at home. I love to cook, entertain, and most of all, enjoy time spent creating food with love for friends and family.