Planned your Thanksgiving menu yet? There’s plenty of time, but musing over some of the most beloved dishes of the year is almost as much fun as eating them.
Thanksgiving is the great American feast. The pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but since ancient times, people have celebrated the hard-earned harvest with a party. Most of us don’t toil in the field these days, but we are connected to our agrarian past by this holiday. It is a time to feast with family and friends.
As we create our own Thanksgiving traditions, the one thing we can’t skip is the thankfulness. Turkey is optional, but it’s important to pause and be grateful for all the farmers who grew this food, all the hardworking people who brought it to us, and our incredible luck to live in a time of such bounty.
So as you plan your big Thanksgiving meal, think beyond the bird. Putting a meatless main course on the table welcomes the vegetarians to the feast. Make it as appealing as this strudel, and everyone will want some.
To make a vegetable-based dish into a centerpiece, I took an old-school approach and wrapped it in pastry. Frozen puff pastry is easy, and you can’t beat it for a showy presentation. Vegans will be happy to know that many brands of puff contain no butter, including the Pepperidge Farm brand found in most stores, so you can easily make this vegan-friendly.
For the filling, I made a medley of sweet, seasonal root vegetables and roasted them with fresh sage. I always buy a fat bunch of sage at Thanksgiving, since the slightly woody, earthy taste is essential in stuffing. Make sure to roast the roots tightly covered, so they stay nice and moist. Add some aged Cheddar, or the vegan option of pecans.
This strudel is best done in stages. Just roast the roots the day before, let them cool, and refrigerate overnight, covered, while the puff pastry thaws in the refrigerator. A couple of hours before dinner, assemble the strudel and chill it on the pan. Then you can bake it to golden perfection.
Once you carve this fragrant beauty, it won’t last long.
Roasted Vegetable and Sage Strudel
Note: This showy strudel gives the meatless diner a burnished and buttery centerpiece dish that can be carved at the table in place of a turkey. Because puff pastry varies in size, you can either make one large roll or two smaller rolls, depending on the brand you use. From Robin Asbell.
• 2 large onions, chopped
• 3 large parsnips, peeled and cubed (4 c.)
• 2 large carrots, cubed (2 c.)
• 1 1/2 c. cubed sweet potato
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, plus more whole for garnish
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 c. chopped parsley
• 1/2 c. pecan halves or 1 1/2 c. (4 oz.) Cheddar cheese, shredded
• 2 (about 1-lb.) pkg. puff pastry, thawed
• 1 large egg, or 1 tbsp. agave syrup with 1 tbsp. nondairy milk
• Kale, slivered and tossed with olive oil and salt, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine onions, parsnips, carrots and sweet potato in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add the sage, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Cover the pan tightly with foil, then roast for 25 minutes. Uncover and stir, then cover again for 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate overnight, or proceed.
When the vegetables are cooled, add the parsley and either the pecans or cheese.
Line a sheet pan (preferably one with no rim) with parchment paper. Return the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly dust counter with flour. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry and use a rolling pin to lightly roll, flattening the fold marks. Place the longer side closest to you, parallel to the edge of the counter. If using the larger Dufour puff pastry, place all the vegetable filling in the middle of the pastry, and fold the long sides up to encase the filling, overlapping slightly and pinching a few times to seal. If using the smaller Pepperidge Farm pastry, make 2 strudels on 2 sheets of pastry. Place seam-side-down on the baking sheet.
Chill the roll while you cut the decorations. Whisk the egg with a teaspoon of water and get a pastry brush. If you are going vegan, whisk the agave and nondairy milk and use that instead.
Place a sheet of pastry on the floured counter and use a sharp paring knife to cut 8 simple oval leaf shapes about 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch across. Use the tip of the knife to incise the veins of the leaf in each one.
Take the pastry roll out of the refrigerator and brush with egg. Place the leaves on top of the roll, as if they are draped across it. (Space them so you can slice the strudel between the leaves for 8 servings.) Brush with more egg. You can re-wrap and freeze the remaining puff pastry for another use.
If you have 1 large strudel, bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. With 2 smaller strudels, bake them for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden brown and puffed. (If you underbake, the pastry will deflate and become soggy.)
Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a large platter. Garnish with sage or slivered kale that has been tossed with a little olive oil and salt.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 610 Fat 39 g Sodium 680 mg
Carbohydrates 58 g Saturated fat 8 g Total sugars 8 g
Protein 9 g Cholesterol 18 mg Dietary fiber 7 g
Exchanges per serving: 4 starch, 7 fat.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.