The holidays for me is a particularly great opportunity to showcase to my husband, other family members and friends that eating plant-based not only is satisfying and delicious, but even more exciting, varied and tastier than what you might ever have experienced as a meat eater. I love experimenting with different dishes and versions of them, to create new, more flavorful traditions. As a chef, I suppose I am forever curious and interesting in trying out new ways to “play” with food. As a new vegan a little over 5 years ago, I have to admit I was a bit nervous as to what to make for the holidays, and how my loved ones would enjoy (or not enjoy) my new food.
It’s funny how people get all bent out of shape when I tell them I don’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving or ham on Christmas. As if that is the only choice, and most people never eat turkey or ham on any other day of the year – so what’s the big deal? Traditions and memories are of course engrained in us and evoke strong feelings, so while I’m playing a bit of devil’s advocate, I also invite anyone who is curious to try out a different dish on their favorite holiday to try out today’s recipe.
Mushrooms are always great to cook with, especially if you want to re-create the juiciness and texture of meat, as well as the ‘umami’ flavor many animal based dishes give. The advantage of using mushrooms instead of meat, is of course that you avoid the saturated fat, cholesterol and potential added hormones that meat contain, and you will not be nearly as sleepy or uncomfortably stuffed (although certainly full!) after eating mushrooms. Not to mention you will save an animal’s life!
Making a Wellington is not at all as hard as it looks, although it is a 3-step process. Make the filling, roast the mushrooms and roll out the puff pastry dough and fill it. But the results are well worth it and will please all palates, that I promise! I’m also including a recipe for a gravy that was out of this world and a must to pair with this dish. The flavors are familiar, seasonal and delicious.
Here is my Thanksgiving plate this year, with all the trimmings:
There are many versions of Wellington, and I’ve drawn inspiration from a variety of recipes I’ve seen out there. As a chef with a particular cooking style, I always have my own interpretation and make tweaks accordingly, so this is my version of a beautiful holiday dish that I think will please the most critical foodie. I find the filling of chestnuts and some lentils with the mushrooms and herbs create incredible depth of flavor and a variety of textures that will make you want to take another bite, and another bite… and wonder why you haven’t thought to make this before. Enjoy!
PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM WELLINGON
For the mushrooms:
4 portobello mushrooms
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves,
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tbsp fresh sage, thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
For the filling:
1 large Vidalia onion
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
1 celery stick, chopped fine
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
a big handful chopped fresh parsley
1 cup dry sherry or white wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups (500ml) chestnuts, roasted
2 cups (500ml) pecans
2 slices crusty artisan bread like sourdough
1 cup (250ml) cooked brown lentils
1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable stock
For the Wellington:
2 sheets of Puff Pastry, slightly thawed ( I used Pepperidge Farm – it’s vegan!)
2 tbsp melted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
To make mushrooms:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius). Clean the portobello mushrooms, remove the stem, and place them in a 9×13 oven proof baking dish. Drizzle olive oil, the minced garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you make the filling.
To make filling:
In a large saute pan, heat up a couple of tbsp of olive oil, then throw in the red onion, carrot and celery with a pinch of kosher salt and saute for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add in the chopped rosemary, thyme, rosemary and parsley and cook a couple more minutes. Add in the dry sherry or white wine and cook until the liquid evaporates and alcohol cooks off. Add in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, combine and caramelize and remove from pan. Add the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
Add the chestnuts, pecans and bread and pulse until quite crumbly. Throw in the cooked lentils with a pinch or two of salt and pepper and pulse through just a few more times (it shouldn’t be mushy but still have some whole lentils in for texture). Add the nut mixture into the large bowl with the onion mixture, and pour in the vegetable stock. It should form a slightly sticky, firm “dough”.
To assemble Wellington:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).
On a clean work surface, sprinkle a little flour and roll out the puff pastry sheets until it’s about 1/2 inch (about 1 1/4 cm) thick. Place one of the rolled out puff pastry sheets on a greased baking sheet, then top with half of the nut mixture onto the middle in a sausage like shape, Place the roasted Wellington mushrooms in a layer on on top, then finish by adding the remaining half of nut mixture on top of mushrooms. Cover the filling with the second rolled out puff pastry and push it down and enclose with your fingers. Cut off edges using a pizza cutter, and with the leftover dough you can create shapes and decorate the Wellington with these if you wish. Prick the dough with a fork to create air holes.
Brush the top with the melted butter, and bake in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius) for about 40 minutes, It should be golden on top (you might want to check on it a few minutes before).
Cut slices with a bread knife and serve with gravy, stuffing, roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes and all the other side dishes you enjoy and of course your favorite wine!
THE BEST GRAVY EVER
1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large leek, roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
5-6 thyme sprigs
1 large sprig rosemary
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 oz (30 g) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes
3 tbsp flour
2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup (100 ml) port wine
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).
Place the onion, carrots, leek, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary on a large baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes until veggies are sft.
Reserve the liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms – using a coffee filter and a strainer, pour the liquid into a cup, to capture any dirt from the dried mushrooms. Lightly chop the rehydrated porcini mushrooms.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and mash them with a potato masher. Transfer them to a large sauce pan with all the rest of the ingredients, and bring the heat up to medium. Keep stirring the mixture until the gravy is bubbling. When you have the thickness you want for the gravy, use a chinois /strainger and strain the gravy into a saucepot, press down on the vegetables with a wooden spoon to make sure you get as much of the flavor out of them and as much liquid/gravy as possible. Discard the pulp.
Season the gravy with salt and pepper until you have the desired flavor and serve with your Wellington and anything else – it’s sooo good!