The following recipe appears in The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations by Kim O’Donnel.
A multistep, time-consuming affair this dish may be, but everything can be made in staggered fashion over the course of two days and assembled when you’re ready to serve. Your labor will result in a beauty of a dish: red onion shells now a shade of mauve, filled with all the colors of autumn in the pumpkin bread stuffing. The guests will go wild.
Kitchen notes: I’ve created a two-day game plan to divide the workload and help manage prep among the dish’s four main components. The gravy can be made in advance and gently reheated when ready to serve.
Day 1: Root vegetable gravy
This is no gravy in the ordinary sense, in that there are no pan drippings or roux to speak of. A mess of root vegetables are slathered with olive oil and roasted until super tender, then pureed and thinned out with vegetable stock. Thanks to my ingenious friend Nicole Aloni, who’s got a slew of cookbooks under her own belt, I learned this handy trick, which turns a rouxless sauce into a gravy with gusto.
Makes one quart
1 medium-size onion, halved and peeled
2 cups peeled, 2- to 3-inch pieces of any combination of parsnips, carrots, or celery root
1 shallot bulb, peeled and left whole
6 cloves garlic, skin on
4 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 to 5 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
Freshly ground black pepper
Tools: Roasting pan, parchment paper, food processor
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper. Place all the vegetables, shallots, and garlic in a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. With your hands, coat the vegetables with the oil. Season with the salt.
Arrange the vegetables in a single layer in the prepared pan and roast for 35 minutes. Check on the garlic; if very soft to the touch, remove. (You do not want it to burn.) Cover the pan and roast the vegetables for an additional 10 minutes; they should be tender enough to cut with a fork.
Remove the now-cooled garlic cloves from their skins and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the roasted vegetables and thyme.
Process until well blended; the mixture will resemble a puree. While the motor is running, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The mixture should be smooth and free of vegetable bits.
In a medium-size saucepan over low heat, warm the vegetable stock and keep at a simmer.
Pour the puree into another medium-size saucepan and heat over medium heat. Gradually ladle in the stock until it arrives at the desired consistency; I’m usually happy with the results after 3 cups of stock.
Season with the soy sauce (this will also give the gravy a little color à la Kitchen Bouquet).
Generously season with the black pepper to taste, and a faint squeeze of the lemon. Keep on the heat until ready to pour into a gravy boat.
To make ahead: Let cool, then store in the refrigerator until ready to reheat for serving.
This bread is inspired by a pumpkin-raisin quick bread from a Bobby Flay cookbook. It’s the foundation for Flay’s bread pudding, which I made for several consecutive Thanksgivings. With the exception of a smidge of sugar, the quick bread for the stuffing is seriously savory, with freshly chopped rosemary leading the charge.
Makes six to seven cups of bread cubes
Oil or butter, for greasing a loaf pan
1.75 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into several pieces
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup neutral oil
1⁄3 cup full-fat or 2% plain yogurt, ideally Greek style
1 cup unsweetened pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or currants
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely
Tools: Stand or handheld mixer, nine-inch loaf pan
Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, all of the ground spices, and salt and stir together.
Using a stand or handheld mixer, cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, about 90 seconds. Add the oil and egg and beat until somewhat frothy, another 90 seconds. Then add the yogurt and the pumpkin puree and beat until well mixed.
Add the dry ingredients, in thirds, alternating with the water, to the wet batter. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix together. The batter will be somewhat sticky. Stir in the dried fruit and rosemary until evenly distributed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The top of the bread should spring back when pressed lightly.
Place the pan on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the pan and invert to release the bread, and let cool completely on the rack.
When the bread is completely cooled, cut into one-inch cubes. Place the cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and allow to dry out overnight.
If the cubes need additional toasting, place in the oven at 300 degrees F for up to an hour.
Day 2: Prep the onions and make the stuffing
Makes six servings
7 red onions (about 1⁄2 pound each)
6 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped celery
(2 to 3 stalks) or bok choy
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Swiss chard or spinach that has been washed, dried, stemmed, and finely chopped
Large pinch of ground chile pepper of choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 cups vegetable stock
Pumpkin-rosemary bread cubes
Tools: Melon baller, 12-inch skillet
Trim the tops and bottoms of six of the onions so they can sit upright, then peel. With a melon baller or a teaspoon, dig a little well in the top of each onion to create an opening, without tunneling through.
Place the onions in a medium-size saucepan, along with the water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Transfer the cooked onions to a baking dish and add a small amount of the cooking liquid — about half a cup — until the surface of the dish is covered. Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes.
While the onions roast, make the stuffing: Cut the remaining red onion in half, peel, and mince; you’re looking for a total of half a cup.
Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced red onion, celery, and garlic, stirring regularly until slightly softened, about four minutes. Add the chard and turn with tongs until coated with the aromatics. Cook until the greens wilt, two to three minutes. Season with the chile pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, bring the vegetable stock to a quick boil in a medium-size saucepan, then lower the heat to low, keeping it hot at a gentle simmer.
Place the rosemary-pumpkin bread cubes in a large bowl. Place the contents of the skillet mixture on top, and mix together until well mixed. Ladle in the hot stock in half-cup increments, keeping an eye on absorption. Be careful not to oversaturate the stuffing, yielding a soggy result. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
With tongs, remove the onions one by one from the baking dish and transfer to a plate. Drain them of any lingering water and set aside until cool enough to handle. Drain the baking dish of the water.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking dish.
Pushing from the top opening, remove each onion’s insides. (You can store the onion remnants in the refrigerator for fried rice or your next omelet; they will keep for a few days in a covered container.) It’s OK if a hole results on the other end. Carefully return the onion shells to the baking dish. Fill the onions with the stuffing until generously packed, and put the remaining stuffing in the prepared baking dish.
Cover the onions with foil and bake until warmed through, about 15 minutes. Make room for the remaining stuffing, also covered with foil, and bake until hot, about 20 minutes.
Serve with the root vegetable gravy.