At Thanksgiving and holidays, following family tradition around food is usually regarded important. Often, we find the pressures of conforming to the belief that everything must be exactly the way grandmother, Mom or Uncle Charlie made it. We have these visions in our heads about what Thanksgiving means to us, and the traditions we must uphold around it.
For me, working as a professional chef, I have been lucky enough to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, carve the bird and serve dinner over the entire three-day weekend for my guests. I have listened intently to a multitude of stories of the dishes that they hold dear and important.
I have heard the wonderful comments as my guests have tried traditional dishes prepared in new ways to them. I know that by being willing to try new culinary experiences have introduced many deliciously new dishes to their holiday tables.
With this year being significantly different than last, we are able to gather again; but this time in my house without the bird. I have gradually moved my flexitarian diet to incorporating more and more fully vegetarian choices. I am grateful for the choices I have with all of the Natera family of products to help me make this year special in an all-inclusive vegan spread.
The big secret to a great Thanksgiving holiday is the organization and preparation, and to do anything that you can get done in advance to make your life easier. For example, the cranberry orange sauce, and the dressing.
Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I have been preparing, by reading though family cook books and recipes cards. This treasure trove of information – stories passed down, recipes, and notes scribbled in the margin of books. I wanted to revive these recipes in my new tradition of vegan foods.
I started to play with my recipes, to remove the heavy fat laden sauces and emphasis around the turkey and ham. Instead, I concentrated my focus on what I wanted to preserve, and how I could overlay that onto the products available to me.
It really helped as I played with the recipes, I found my emotions came out, my memories around spending days planning and preparing the meal. I felt happy with what I have now created and confident that a new generation of my family could now gather together to enjoy a vegan Thanksgiving dinner without any reservations.
Traditionally turkey is the most common main course of Thanksgiving dinner and many kids joke by calling it Turkey Day. This year we are going to be serving the Natera Crispy Chick-un Cutlets (Schnitzel) as the main. It is easy to prepare in the oven ahead of time, cover and hold in a warm oven without worrying about family members arriving late.
I like to get my family to participate in the preparation, and if you want to get your kids involved, I will share with you here what they can do to jump in and make this flavourful ‘Quinoa Butternut Squash Dressing.’
For Cranberry Orange sauce, made this in advance, use 2.5 cups of frozen cranberries with ¾ cup of orange juice, 2 Star anise pods, ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp of salt, bring to a boil, reduce and cook over medium-low heat till the cranberries are soft, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes till all the cranberries start to burst. Allow to cool in the pan and remove the star anise before transferring to another dish. This can be made days ahead and kept in the fridge, which will allow the sauce to gel and the flavours to develop even more. In the southern states, they add ½ cup of chopped pecans to the dish before serving.
Corn, get fresh corn with the husk on, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the shucked corn, once the water comes back to the boil, cook for 12-13 minutes, roll the corn as its cooking to ensure all the sides are cooked.
For another option, I also like to cook corn on the BBQ, if the weathers nice, pull off the corn silk and leave the leaves intact, don’t open the corn. Soak the corn for 5 minutes and place on the hot BBQ for about 20 minutes until the leaves are dried, nicely brown and smoky. Remove from the grill, hold the corn using the tongs, cut off the stem end and shake out the corn onto a plate. I like to serve this with lime, salt and pepper.
For the brussels sprouts, there are tons of different recipes and multiple ways of cooking it. I prefer to do trim the roots, cut in half and using a big skillet, pan fry in olive oil with whole grain mustard, salt, pepper. Cook till soft and nicely caramelized, add a good dash of balsamic vinegar at the end to deglaze the pan.
I love making cauliflower faux mash potatoes, it’s super easy to make and really delicious, garlicky and rich with flavour. Simply steam off the cauliflower, pulse it up in a food processor with almond milk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg and 4-5 roasted garlic cloves – which I gently pan roast ahead of time on the stove top with ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil.
We love roasted veggies, I prepare this ahead of time, and hold at room temperature. Do these with yellow potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and carrots, toss with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, olive oil and a nice Italian herb mixture, place on parchment paper onto a large flat cookie sheet. Roast in the oven at 400°F for 25-30 minutes, turning once at about the 20-minute mark.
You can add apple sauce, mushroom sauce and all kinds of other family favourites. You may want to add corn bread, lentil loaf or buns. You will love the combination of flavours with this menu to give you an easy and delicious feast to enjoy with your family.
From our Natera Family to yours Happy Thanksgiving.
You can reach Executive Chef Alastair at, [email protected] Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his mother and grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.