Quite a few people out there consider “vegetarian” and “Christmas dinner” to be just about as incompatible as “vegetarian” and “Thanksgiving,” given the turkey centerpiece, the ham, the sausage stuffing, the smoked pork in the collards–you get the message. After I became vegetarian, many relatives asked incredulously, “but what do you eat?” while probably imagining raw lettuce, walnuts, and cubes of tofu. I knew going in that the holidays would be different from there on out, but much of the food on the holiday dinner table is what I’ll call “accidentally vegetarian” such as the mac-and-cheese, salad, cornbread, rice and peas, and cranberry sauce. And honestly, while there’s a thing or two I haven’t found decent vegetarian replacements for such as glazed ham (let me know if you find it!), you can make just about everything vegetarian (and delicious) for Christmas dinner. Some things were as easy as convincing my parents to switch out chicken and beef stock for veggie stock, while gravy (loose recipe to come in a next post) took a little more effort on my part. But I had no problem jumping into the kitchen to help, and to be blunt, while I love a good salad, that’s not what I was going to get stuck eating for Christmas.
For Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s house, the table was crammed with cornbread stuffing, rice and peas, stewed black beans and mushrooms with smoked paprika, braised kale, sauteed brussels sprouts with garlic and onions, mac-and-cheese, and mushroom gravy. My sister, my boyfriend, and I (who are all vegetarian) had plenty to eat and so did my mother and step-dad, who chose to keep a “small” turkey and ham on the table. The black beans, kale, and (as far as I knew) rice and peas were all vegan. And the sauteed brussels sprouts and gravy could have been vegan if we had left out the butter, but butter’s a tough one to cut out. For the mac-and-cheese, I just used Martha Stewart’s recipe, which is easily one of the most delicious versions I’ve had. The only differences are that I 1. used the aged white cheddar, gruyere, AND pecorino romano (the pecorino adds a nice saltiness) 2. mixed in sauteed onion and garlic and 3. added way more spices, including garlic powder and adobe seasoning, because this recipe needed a touch more of complexity.
I didn’t think to snap a photo of the dinner spread, but I got one of Christmas Day dinner at a relative’s house. We brought a dish or two and my dad made some amazing lasagna which went perfectly alongside the mac-and-cheese, kale, candied sweet potatoes, salad, cornbread, brussels sprouts, rice, and gravy.
Anyone who thinks they can’t have a good vegetarian Christmas dinner needs to come over to my house next year!