So far, today has been a banner day in Claire's Kitchen. Not only did my December digital issue of Saveur magazine arrive, with some very inspiring articles about Swedish Christmas breads, but I received a phone call today from Provenance Food and Wine that they just got in a new shipment of the fig salami that I've been wanting to try for weeks, but couldn't seem to get. What great customer service! And just in time for Thanksgiving.
Last night, I went to a potluck dinner that my friend Tegan hosted. It was a small group, but two of the potluckers were vegetarians. I made a lovely butternut squash soup, which proved to be an epic win. Go me! However, this party made me think about dinner parties in general, and how to be a good host when you have a mixed group of vegetarian and meat-eating guests. Of course, during this time of year, my mind automatically turns to thoughts of Thanksgiving. What do you do when you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, the showpiece of which is a roast turkey, and some of your guests don't eat meat?
First of all, I'd like to say that although I am a meat-eater (lambchops....gaahhhhhh! *drool*), Claire's Kitchen is a vegetarian-friendly place. I have many friends who eschew meat for various reasons; even my own mother gave up meat for many years (she now eats white meat chicken and turkey...sometimes). Friends and family are important to a happy kitchen and a happy Claire, so I'm willing to adjust recipes to suit the veggie-lovers. However, giving your vegetarian guests some culinary choices doesn't mean you have to forgo the turkey for a tofurky. Personally, I don't think I know any vegetarians that even like that stuff:
Hearty, meat-free appetizers, side dishes, and desserts are a better way to accommodate those who won't be partaking in the turkey. Below are some tips for having a successful Thanksgiving dinner for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike:
1) Many traditional Thanksgiving dishes are meat-free or can easily be made without meat. Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock in soups or stuffing. Use sauteed shallots instead of pancetta or bacon in brussel sprouts or green beans.
2) Make additional amounts of side dishes and cut back on the turkey. If you are hosting dinner for 12, but four of your guests are vegetarian, you will only need enough turkey for 8 or 10 (if you like leftovers), but you'll need enough side dishes for 14-16 (as four people are eating side dishes as main dishes).
3) Call your vegetarian guests ahead of time and ask if they eat dairy or eggs. If not, they are probably vegan. If they are vegan, ask them to either bring a dish or two that they know they can eat as a main course or ask them to send you a recipe they like. Reconsider having this person as a friend or family member. Ha, ha, ha, just kidding.....yeah.
4) Have meat-free hors d'oeuvres options, such as this wonderful fig salami I found:
Actually, I just wanted to post a picture of this to make your mouth water a little. I found out about it here.
Vegetarian or not, you should make this soup for your friends and family at Thanksgiving this year. Or after Thanksgiving. Whenever, really. It's easy! Feel free to play with the recipe to suit your needs. Serves 5.
Claire's Kitchen Butternut Squash Soup
2 small-medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 shallot, diced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
6 large sage leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
couple of teaspoons cinnamon
tsp or so of ground black pepper
large pinch of crushed red pepper
Put all ingredients in a crock pot*. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (high 4-5 hrs). Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth (or transfer to a large bowl and use a handheld blender). Add more water, veggie stock, or whole milk if the soup is too thick. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with sprinkled chives, toasted pumpkin seeds, and/or a swirl of creme fraiche.
*You can also cook this on the stove top in a stock pot. Simmer, covered, on medium heat until butternut squash is very, very soft.