Countdown to T-Day

Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, not by a long shot. Rarely do I even observe it in any significant way, dutifully attending the obligatory family meals, but only to slap together a minimal veggie burger or bowl of soup for myself. Best to keep away from the kitchen with that gruesome turkey carcass on display, all manner of innards and nasty bits strewn about on plates as people mill around the buffet, you see. With the inescapable smell of meat and butter permeating the air, it’s the most I can do to just keep a straight face and get through this day without being too grouchy- A tactic that I often inadvertently fail at, unfortunately.

On the other hand… There was one Thanksgiving that I fondly recall. The only dinner party I ever threw, all of my closest friends at the time was there, and it was as close to perfect as one could hope. There were mashed potatoes, wild rice salad, butternut squash soup, asparagus casserole, glazed carrots, fresh bread, and of course a plethora of dessert options. Everyone contributed something or other to the meal, be it a dish or just themselves (which counts for a lot more than you might imagine.)

But when I think back on that night, there is one aspect that stands out in my mind, inspiring me to try the whole ordeal just one more time.

Tofu turkey. No, not a Tofurkey, but a modest homemade substitution. Made from an ordinary block of tofu and cut into shape, they have a lot going for them, being so much easier and cuter than many other Thanksgiving mains out there.

Now, since the countdown has officially begun and Thanksgiving looms a mere 10 (!!!) days away, it seemed as good a time as ever to go through a trial run, and to perhaps share a few ideas in case everyone hasn’t yet nailed down their menus. Taking a more sophisticated approach to the marinade this time around than on the original tofu turkeys, a mixture of apple cider and savory herbs makes for a sweet, salty, and slightly tangy taste sensation. Nothing goes to waste here either, because the flavorful leftover marinade is then made into a simple, silky smooth gravy.

Even if you, like me, tend to gloss over this holiday as a waste of a day off, just consider making it a special occasion by making these adorable, cruelty-free fowl.

Cider-Marinated Tofu Turkeys

3 Cups Apple Cider
2 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
1/2 Teaspoon Dried, Crushed Sage
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Black Pepper
2 14-16-Ounce Blocks Extra Firm Tofu

2 – 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

To make the marinade, simply whisk together everything except for the tofu and oil in a large, microwave save bowl or pitcher, and heat for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Set aside.

Open and drain away as much liquid as possible from each of the block of tofu. Taking one at a time, stand it on its side, and slice it horizontally into four slabs. Use a turkey-shaped cookie cutter to cut each one individually (You can save the excess tofu for another recipe, like “egg” salad or stuffed mushrooms.) (If you can’t find an appropriate cookie cutter, or don’t want to fuss with it, leaving the rectangles as is will work just fine, too.) Place each tofu turkey into a large baking dish (about 11 x 7, but exact size isn’t important) so that none are overlapping.

Pour the hot marinade over the turkeys, and let rest a room temperature until the liquid has cooled. Cover with plastic wrap, and then refrigerate overnight, or for at least 8 hours and no more than 24.

When you’re ready to prepare dinner, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Drain away but reserve the excess marinade, leaving the tofu turkeys in the baking dish in one layer. Brush the turkeys with oil, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until nicely browned.

Serves 4 (2 turkeys each)

Cider Gravy

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Cup Sliced Button Mushrooms
1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Teaspoon Powdered Vegetable Stock
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
1/3 Cup Chickpea Flour
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 1/4 Cups Reserved Marinade, Divided

Set a saute pan with high sides over moderate heat, and pour in the oil. Once hot, add in the onion, mushrooms, and garlic, and gently saute for 5 – 8 minutes, until softened and the onions are translucent. Sprinkle in the spices, and cook for 1 minute.

Stir the chickpea flour and nutritional yeast into 1/2 cup of the reserved marinade so that there are no lumps, and pour it into the pan. It will thicken up very quickly, and once it does, add in the rest of the marinade. Turn down the heat slightly and let the mixture come to a slow bubble, and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture into a blender or food processor, and thoroughly puree, until completely smooth. Serve immediately, or place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the gravy so that it doesn’t form a skin.

Makes about 2 1/2 Cups

Printable Recipe