Introduction: Vegetarian Turducken
Holidays are full of festivities and if you've never really thought about it, full of meat centric food celebrations: St. Patricks Day Corned Beef, Easter Ham, Thanksgiving Turkey, Christmas Goose. Vegetarian sides are always available and there is always the extensive line of processed tofu products to substitute the main dish for our vegetarian friends, but why not create a main of their own? Inspired several years ago by an NPR story on a Veggiducken, and again by Epicurious's Vegducken, I decided to give it a try and create one of my own. Here's to the vegetarians and veggie lovers out there this holiday season. The Vegetarducken can stand on it's own as a Vegetarian play on the classic Turducken as a main dish, centerpiece, and fun meal.
Step 1: Things You'll Need
- 1 Large Butternut Squash*
- 1 Eggplant*
- 1 King Oyster Mushroom*
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Small Shallot
- 1/4 Cup of Parmesan
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup of Bread Crumbs
- 4 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 3 Springs of Fresh Rosemary
- 4 Sprigs of Fresh Oregano
- 4 Fresh Sage Leaves
- Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 5 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
- Pepper to taste
- Study Spoon
- Butchers Twine
*NOTE: When you are picking out your butternut, eggplant and mushroom make sure that they are all smaller than the proceeding vegetable so that they will be able to nest together in your Vegetarducken. In other words, your eggplant should be small enough to fit inside of your butternut squash, and your mushroom should be smaller than your eggplant both in size and diameter. You can also switch out veggies too! Try sweet potato or zucchini, or a delicata squash!
Step 2: Divide Your Veggies
First things first, preheat your oven to 350F.
Now, with a large sharp knife cut the top off of your butternut squash and then cut it in half lengthwise. Repeat with your eggplant and king oyster mushroom.
Step 3: Core Your Butternut
You'll need to create the cavity that the eggplant is going to sit in. First scoop out the seeds and discard them (or save for roasting!). Place one half of your eggplant face down on one half of your butternut squash. This will give you a rough idea how much of your butternut squash you will have to remove to fit your eggplant half inside. I like to gently score the outline of the eggplant with the tip of a knife.
Using a metal spoon scoop out the inside of the butternut squash inside the outline you have made. Save the flesh that you are pulling out of your eggplant in a bowl to the side. You are going to use it in your stuffing later. Keep carving until you have a cavity big enough to fit both a layer of stuffing and your eggplant. Once your eggplant can fit snuggly inside of the cavity you have made with a little wiggle room for stuffing you're done.
Repeat with the other half of your butternut squash.
Step 4: Eggplant
Like the squash, the inside of the eggplant has to be carved out to fit the oyster mushroom inside of it. Place one half of your oyster mushroom with the flat side down on top of your eggplant half. Score the outline of the mushroom on the eggplant to give you an idea of where to carve. Remove the oyster mushroom and using your spoon begin to carve the center of the eggplant. You'll want to be a little careful with the eggplant since the inner flesh will give away much easier than the inner flesh of the butternut. Go slow and take your time. Save the flesh that you are pulling out of your eggplant in a bowl to the side. You are going to use it in your stuffing later.
Place the mushroom half into the cavity you've created in your eggplant to test if it is deep enough. If the mushroom can fit flush or lower than the eggplant you've done a great job and you're done. If the mushroom is still sticking up out of the eggplant, keep hollowing out that center! Repeat with the other half of your eggplant.
Step 5: Test Fit
Now that you have both halves of your butternut and eggplant carved and hollowed out, place all of the pieces together to do a test fit.
Place the oyster mushroom half inside the eggplant and then place the eggplant half inside of the butternut squash. Check to make sure all of your veggies are flush with each other. Also look to see that there is enough room for you to add a layer of stuffing as well in your final vegetarducken.
Step 6: Prep Your Stuffing
In preparation for your stuffing, you'll want to chop the following:
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 small shallot
- All of your fresh herbs
- The cored out flesh of your eggplant and butternut squash.
- Any left over king oyster mushrooms you have.
Step 7: Stuffing
Pour about a tablespoon of oil into a pan over medium heat on your stove. Allow the oil to warm up and then add your garlic, shallots, and herbs to the hot pan. Sauté for a minute before adding the chopped up eggplant, butternut squash, and leftover mushrooms. Cook over medium for about 5 minutes to allow some of the moisture to release from your vegetables and evaporate. Add your red pepper flakes, salt, and some pepper to taste. Remove your pan from the heat and pour your stuffing contents into a bowl.
Add two eggs, your breadcrumbs, melted butter and your parmesan cheese to your bowl. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or your hands. If you are going to use your hands, be careful and wait till your stuffing mixture has cooled.
Step 8: Layer Your Vegetarducken
Starting with both of the butternut squash halves, spread a thin layer of stuffing on the inside of the cavity using a metal spoon. Place your eggplants on top of the stuffing, inside of the butternut. Spread another layer of stuffing on the inside wall of the eggplant coating it thoroughly. Place your king oyster mushroom down on top of the stuffing. Fill in any holes with additional stuffing, taking care to not squash the mushroom as you pack more stuffing inside.
Step 9: Tie It Up
Place both halves of your Vegetarducken together and tie closed with food safe, unbleached butchers twine. I like to tie four pieces of twine around the body of the squash, and one piece of twine perpendicular to the first four to hold the whole meal together. Make sure to tie your knots fairly securely, if you need help doing this grab a friend and an extra set of hands!
Step 10: Bake
Place your vegetarducken on a cookie sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Create a a horseshoe shaped roll of aluminum foil to cradle the bottom of your squash to keep it from rolling around while it bakes and you are moving it to and from the oven. Cover your entire vegetarducken with foil to seal in the moisture as it bakes.
Bake in your oven at 350F for 1 hour 45 minutes, or until you can easily poke the butternut squash with a fork. Once done, remove it from the oven and allow for it to cool.
Step 11: Serve
Cut the twine and your vegetarducken is ready to eat! Serve it up for your next holiday vegetarian main and enjoy.