Standing a full three inches tall and garnished to the max, this elegant and very robust torte is the ideal choice. The torte features all the pleasing qualities one might crave in an autumn dish that will take the place of that greasy Standard Thanksgiving favorite that unfortunately graces American tables across the country.
We vegans prefer a kinder, gentler, and far more earth-friendly main dish for which we can truly give thanks on this special occasion.
This sumptuous, finger-lickin’ torte evolved over a period of several years as I tweaked it just a tad each year, gave it more sage one year, enhanced it with liquid smoke another year, and finally developed the Mushroom gravy to give it the finishing touch. The recipe is from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.
One year my daughter asked how I ever came up with this dish. After giving it a moment’s thought, I focused on the specific flavors that bring us pleasure during the autumn and long winter season.
This time of year we seek the intense flavor of dried herbs more than the lighter fresh herbs. We need robust ingredients that stick to the ribs like nuts and whole grains–winter foods to bring us warmth and satisfaction.
So I added a generous amount of poultry seasoning, a seasoning blend that contains a fair amount of sage, and turned to wild rice, potatoes, mushrooms, pecans, walnuts, and a package of fat-free vegan sausage.
Because Thanksgiving can be a busy time with extra family and friends coming for dinner, I cook the wild rice two days ahead. Then it’s ready to just toss into the mix. I also make the Mushroom Gravy ahead and simply warm it on the stovetop just before serving time.
I always make this dish the day before Thanksgiving simply because it tastes so much better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to do their dance together. I pack it into a springform pan and tuck it into the oven. After cooling, it goes into the fridge until next day.
About 2 hours before Thanksgiving dinner, I take the torte out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then, I warm it for 20 to 25 minutes before serving. Served with a robust mushroom sauce on the side, it makes an impressive presentation perched on a footed cake plate.
3 1/3 cups water, divided
2/3 cup wild rice
2 1/8 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
1 (14-ounce) package vegan ground sausage
3/4 pound portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large mushrooms)
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
Fresh herbs (dill, sage, parsley, basil, or mint)
1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
- TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Remove the collar and line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Snap the collar back on and set aside.
- Combine 2 cups of the water, wild rice, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain any excess liquid and set the rice aside.
- Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup of the water, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the pecans and walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast them for 9 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.
- Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the remaining 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.
- Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, spreading evenly to the edges and pressing firmly to avoid air pockets. Arrange the tomato slices over the top and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
- TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, combine the mushrooms, 1 3/4 cups of the water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. Serve the gravy on the side.
TO SERVE THE TORTE, run a clean flatware knife around the edge of the springform pan, release the springform collar, and set the torte on a large serving platter or footed cake plate. Garnish the platter with herbs.
Prep Ahead 1: To ease the feast-day preparations, make the torte the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it at 350 degrees F. for about 20 to 25 minutes just before serving.
Prep Ahead 2: The recipe comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte, preferably even a day ahead. Make the Mushroom Gravy up to two days ahead and warm it shortly before serving.
Add a gourmet touch by serving the torte on a footed cake plate and garnish the edges with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange or Fuyu persimmon slices.