Monday, December 30, 2013

What's for Dinner?

What are you serving for Christmas dinner?  This question was asked before the table had barely been set for Thanksgiving dinner.  We are creatures of habit - turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas, something liquid for New Year's Eve and cleansing January 2nd.  However, this year I wanted to do something different than the traditional copycat dinner normally served for Christmas dinner.  Having been raised in a vegetarian household, the meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas look very similar, but this year it was time to break out of the mold.

I spoke to my mom about the possibility of making a vegetarian dish which is totally different from our usual vegetarian turkey casserole.  The dish is called "Almost Beef Wellington with Madeira Sauce" and features a staggering amount of mushrooms (the more the better!) and mouthwatering Madeira sauce.  My mom asked me to find a substitute for the Madeira and so I decided to use Balsamic Vinegar after doing some internet searching.  As the recipe does not make very many servings we had to make several of the pastries, but it was so worth the effort!  Turned out we actually made too many which resulted in many happy people taking leftover pastries home.

Since this recipe was created by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) it calls for vegan margarine and the use of Morningstar Farms faux steak strips.  While I am definitely for the ethical treatment of animals, I also believe in the ethical treatment of my body and eating good food.  Therefore, we used real butter from Tillamook.  Due to Morningstar Farms, owned by Kellog's, who does not want us to know what is in our food and supports the use of GMO's I wanted to find a substitute for the faux steak strips.  However, I was unable to find anything palatable or a company which supports labeling GMO’s and also makes a good steak substitute.  I went ahead a purchased the Loma Linda brand faux steak strips, but you could easily substitute with making your own gluten steaks, using Seitan or foregoing it altogether.  Once we had figured out all the ethical and good food options we were ready to begin cooking!

Here is where I would show you pictures of the mushrooms, onions, garlic and steak all sautéing together to create a rich, hearty filling.  Or perhaps images of the balsamic vinegar reducing and becoming this deep, velvety sauce.  However, we were having so much fun whipping potatoes, filling pans with rolls, cooking squash casserole, combining ingredients for cranberry salad… I completely forgot to start snapping shots along the way!  One tip if you are going non-alcoholic and using the balsamic vinegar, you should definitely cut the amount in half of what is called for compared to the Madeira wine.  I also used sweet onions for the filling instead of shallots due to how much I was making and trying to cut down on costs.  It turned out beautifully!
Example of what dish looked like
You will have to believe me when I say the dish was a great hit.  The filling was hearty and filled with flavors; the sauce was deep, rich and added the perfect tones to the dish; and the pastry was the perfect flaky, golden brown.  From the leftover filling we made stroganoff and from the leftover sauce I will be making beef bourguignon.

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