Once upon a time, in a land far away, vegans everywhere could only force a smile while staring down a plate of steamed green beans with cranberry sauce on Christmas Eve. Before Tofurky was a household name, before seitan worship was accepted in society, we had precious little to celebrate during the festive meal. Now, surrounded by such a wealth of meatless options that are even winning over omnivores, it seems like we’ve suddenly woken up from a bad dream.
It’s easy to find a worthy centerpiece that will satisfy any crowd, but for the best, most memorable feast, it all starts with umami. The so-called “fifth taste” that makes plant-based foods taste impossibly meaty is what Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms are best known for. Rather than just focusing on pure protein, nuance and seasoning takes a merely good recipe and makes it truly great.
Slowly rehydrated overnight for maximum depth of flavor, Sugimoto shiitake are blended into a creamy pâté enriched with toasted walnuts and aromatic fresh herbs. Additional nuts are mixed back in for texture, punctuating each bite with a satisfying crunch. The earthy and wild flavors almost remind me of chopped liver associated with Passover, which could be a game-changer this spring. Such an elegant spread would be enough to serve chilled with toast as a compelling appetizer, but we’re not going to stop there. For the winter holidays, we’re going all out.
Encase anything in a layer of buttery, flaky pastry for an instantly elevated experience. Frozen puff pastry makes this pro move deceptively simple, considering the stunning results. Most people make moves towards Beef Wellington for a showstopping main dish, which is also known in french as Boeuf en Croûte. en Croûte simple means, “in pastry,” don’t you know?
While many renditions use a basic shortcrust, more like classic pie dough, I prefer the laminated layers of puff pastry, draped alluringly in a faux braid across this decadent filling. Don’t be daunted; it comes together in minutes once you take the plunge and get started. It’s easier than wrapping up Christmas presents, but still tastes like a gift.
Dressed up with all the sides and fixings or pared down to solo slices, every serving will dazzle guests. Though boldly savory and lavished with garlic, fresh sage, and thyme, it fits seamlessly into every menu, whether you prefer cornbread stuffing or mac and cheese, mashed potatoes or candied yams, roasted Brussels sprouts or green bean casserole. Don’t forget extra gravy on the side.
Absolutely no one will ask about turkey, glazed ham, or otherwise with this meatless marvel gracing the table. Best of all, it also reheats beautifully the next day, if you can manage to hide some away for leftovers.