If all eat meat, consider baking a pie using lard, which makes a more savory and slightly flakier crust than butter.
For 90 percent of the pies I bake, I use an all-butter crust because I love that sweet dairy flavor. But lard also makes a dough that’s a little easier to handle. I can’t do without the flavor of butter, so I generally mix the two.
Look for a lard brand that pleases you; lard varies in flavor depending upon how it’s rendered. Sometimes it’s flavorless, and sometimes it has a slight porky funk, which for me is part of the appeal. Its mild savoriness goes well with those sweet pecan and pumpkin pies we bake this time of year, and the airy texture makes apple pies seem lighter.
Seek out rendered leaf lard from a good butcher or specialty market, or try your local farmers’ market. It’s the purest and best quality pig fat to use in a crust. Avoid processed lard at all costs; it has been hydrogenated to increase shelf life and can sometimes have an off or mildly rancid flavor, as well as consequences for your arterial health.
Substitute lard for other fats in your favorite pie crust, or use ours, which combines butter and lard. – MELISSA CLARK
For vegetarians or vegans at the feast, optics can send a powerful message. If you’re not going to have a turkey on the table, or if the turkey on the table is just for those guests who have not yet seen the light of a plant-based Thanksgiving feast, take care to serve a main dish that has some of the visual and sensory firepower of a giant roast. Something demonstrably large and in charge, like some really big beets, or a whole roasted cauliflower or two, or a platter of stuffed squash. — SAM SIFTON
If dietary restrictions are plentiful, don’t assume that just because you have some lactose-intolerant, gluten-avoiding or Paleo-dieting guests, you must cook separate meals. Nor are you required to match the usual feast, dish for dish, with special substitutions.
What you want to do is bring unity to the table and offer as many dishes as possible that everyone can eat and (this is crucial) enjoy.
Whatever you do, try to avoid any truly arcane ingredients, or foods you’re uncomfortable cooking with (perhaps tempeh, textured vegetable protein or xanthan gum). Pretty much everyone can eat roasted autumn vegetables with garlic and herbs, and will be pleased to do so. And chances are that that vegan gravy recipe with nutritional yeast, mushroom powder and Marmite isn’t half as good as a simple version you can easily make yourself. — MELISSA CLARK
For all persuasions, dressing is an easy way to add visual appeal and flavor to the menu. You can make a version with meat, and one with no meat. At nytcooking.com, we have an excellent gluten-free dressing, and another that’s entirely vegan. All four could live alongside one another in harmony. — SAM SIFTON
Lard Pie Crust
From Melissa Clark
Time: 15 minutes, plus 4 hours’ chilling
Yield: 1 (9-inch) single pie crust
1 1/4 cup/160 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon/2 grams fine sea salt
6 tablespoons/85 grams/3 ounces unsalted European-style butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons/57 grams/2 ounces chilled rendered leaf lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 to 5 tablespoons/30 to 75 milliliters ice water
1. In a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and lard and pulse until the mixture forms chickpea-size pieces (3 to 5 one-second pulses). Or, if making by hand, stir together the flour and salt. Use two knives or a pastry cutter to cut the butter and lard into the flour mixture until you get slightly smaller pieces, the size of green peas.
2. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse or mix until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form the crust into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before rolling out and baking.
Whole-Roasted Stuffed Delicata Squash
From Sam Sifton
Time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 6 to 12 servings
6 small delicata squash, about 1 pound each
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for the baking sheet
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 bunch red kale (about 1 pound), trimmed and chopped
6 ounces whole-grain bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups), from a good-quality loaf
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
1. Cut 1 inch off the top and bottom of each squash. Use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle the inside of the squash with salt and pepper, then stand them upright on an oiled baking sheet.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it foams, add onions to pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Add kale to pan and continue to cook, tossing, until kale begins to wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and put vegetables into a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, place bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until they begin to crisp on the outside, approximately 7 to 9 minutes. Add bread cubes to the bowl with the vegetables, and then add blue cheese and cranberries. Stir to combine.
4. Put pecans in a dry sauté pan set over medium heat and toast the nuts until they begin to darken and turn fragrant, approximately 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and allow to cook for 1 minute, then scrape into the bowl with the rest of the stuffing and toss to combine. Taste and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
5. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Divide the stuffing between the squash. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 6 pieces, and top each squash with a dot of butter. Roast squash until the flesh has softened and you can easily pierce it with a fork, approximately 45 minutes. If the squash is browning too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top to prevent burning.
6. Sprinkle parsley over the squash. Serve 1 whole squash per person as a main course, or 1/2 squash or less as a side dish.
Vegan Mushroom Make-Ahead Gravy
From Melissa Clark
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
4 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, finely chopped (1 cup)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade, as needed
1 teaspoon soy sauce, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in vegetable stock, a little at a time, until a smooth sauce forms. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Season with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Serve as is, or pass it through a fine mesh strainer.
Wild Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
From Melissa Clark
Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1 pound wild mushrooms, cut into large bite-size pieces (a mix of chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and maitake is nice)
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, as needed
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
6 ounces chestnuts (1 cup), crumbled
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar, more as needed
1/4 cup chopped soft herbs, such as dill, tarragon, chives and parsley
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread mushrooms on one rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. On a separate rimmed baking sheet, toss brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Roast both pans of vegetables, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are well browned and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. (The mushrooms may be done before the sprouts, so keep an eye on them.)
3. While the vegetables cook, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until shallots are caramelized and tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Toss chestnuts into pan and brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in brandy. Return pan to medium-high heat and cook until liquid has evaporated. Discard cinnamon stick.
5. In a large bowl, toss together vegetables, chestnut mixture and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Toss in herbs and serve at once.
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