So, last Monday, I promised to serve up some warm, scrumptious, holiday-worthy, meatless meals over the next few weeks – meals that would be right at home on a Thanksgiving table – and someone asked a very good question: Why can’t vegetarians just make a meal out of the sides?
If this were the height of the summer, then a veggie plate would be a great option, but Thanksgiving sides are usually … not peak produce. They’re hefty. Starchy. Thanksgiving’s the one day when we all think it’s perfectly normal to have mashed potatoes, rolls, two kinds of sweet potato casserole, broccoli-rice casserole AND cornbread dressing in one meal.
Have you ever OD’d on cornbread dressing? It’ll make you wish you were the turkey.
Vegetarians definitely need their own Thanksgiving entree. Something warm and filling that tastes like autumn. Something that contains actual nutrients but is also a little decadent.
Something like this Sweet Potato Risotto.
A skillet full of sautéed sweet potatoes, onion and ginger mixed with soft Arborio rice, dry Riesling wine and a few big dollops of rich mascarpone cheese topped with toasted walnuts for a little crunch.
Most risottos take a fair amount of time and quite of bit of babysitting while you slowly add stock to the rice, gently coaxing it into creaminess. Not this one. Instead, you boil the rice for about 15 minutes, add it to the skillet with the sweet potatoes, onion and ginger, and use the wine and the mascarpone to instantly give you that signature, melt-in-your-mouth, creamy consistency that everyone expects from a risotto.
A holiday-worthy meal for Wednesday night effort. And no one has to OD on sweet potato casserole. These are things for which we can be truly grateful.
P.S. If you’ve never tasted a Riesling, it’s a sweet wine that might remind you of pears or apricots. Riesling pairs really well with things that will probably be on your holiday table anyway – like turkey, sweet potatoes, apples and pecans – so don’t leave this ingredient out. Add it to the risotto, and serve the rest with your meal. Or have a glass with your pecan pie later.
Sweet Potato Risotto
From the Williamsburg Inn’s Regency Room via “Bon Appetit” (November 2000)
Makes 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 2/3 cup arborio rice or medium-grain rice
- 1/4 cup dry Riesling wine
- 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese (If unavailable, blend 8 ounces cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream and 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream. Use 2/3 cup mixture for the recipe.)
- 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes, onion and ginger; sauté until sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Cook rice in small saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Drain rice.
- Add rice to sweet potato mixture in skillet.
- Add Riesling and stir over low heat to blend.
- Add mascarpone and stir to melt. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon risotto onto plates. Sprinkle with nuts and parsley.