Thanksgiving is, hands down, my favorite American holiday. And I’m sure many immigrants share my sentiment: It’s inclusive in that we all join hands, with family and friends, in giving thanks to the land that feeds us, yet we all celebrate it a hundred different ways. From masalas to mole, every culture gives the big bird a dressing of its own.
Since my first Thanksgiving in this country, when I stared in complete astonishment at the huge roasted turkey smothered with Indian spices on a platter, I have tried to like turkey. I have bought the farmers market hand-massaged cosseted variety, brined it for days, then roasted it with various masalas and more. I even made turkey biryani. Yet, honestly, after all that fuss, I’d rather just have chicken. Or quail.
If I must cook meat on Thanksgiving, I’d probably go for a slow-roasted leg of lamb cooked with lots vegetables that take on the meat flavor. Or serve a vegetarian entree such as this Cauliflower Bread Pudding. It’s decadent, deeply satisfying and well worth the time it takes to prepare. You can also make it a day ahead and serve it as a side to your turkey.
Makes 12 servings as a small side or 6-8 as an entree
1 medium-sized cauliflower
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup ghee (see note)
3 cups minced onions
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
2 cups cream (see note)
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
1½ cups of melting cheese, such as Gruyère or raclette
4 cups cubed bread (challah works best, but any light bread will do)
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (see note)
¼ cup finely chopped sage leaves
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut off the 2- to 3-inch hard core from the bottom of the cauliflower — the rest is edible. Cut the cauliflower into florets and the remaining greens and stems into ¼-inch pieces. Combine with 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, turmeric and 3 tablespoons of ghee. Spread onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is golden brown.
Heat ¼ cup ghee on high, then sauté the minced onions for 15-18 minutes on medium heat until they are golden brown, stirring frequently. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cinnamon, cream and remaining teaspoon salt. Stir in the serrano pepper (if using) and cheese. Add the cubed bread, garbanzo beans and sage. Once the onions and cauliflower are done, transfer them to the bowl with the egg mixture and combine.
Transfer contents to a 2- to 3-inch-deep greased baking pan, roughly 8-by-10 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Remove pan and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
ideas / variations
Any fragrant herb can be used instead of sage, such as oregano, basil or rosemary.
For a dairy-free version, replace cream with coconut milk and ghee with olive oil.
Make the pudding a day ahead, but bake it for only 30 minutes; it will not be completely done. Before serving, pop it in the oven again for 15-20 minutes.
For a gluten-free version, replace the bread with store-bought cornbread.
Discard all the water from the garbanzo beans can and rinse the beans 2-3 times in cold water before using.