You never know what the weather will be like on Christmas in the South. One year we’ll be huddled up inside around our family dining table and hoping the temps rise above freezing, and then the next year, the nephews and nieces will be running barefoot around the backyard while the grown-ups soak up the sun on the patio. On the years when it’s nice out -- and please let’s all keep our fingers crossed for 2014! -- it’s a crying shame to be stuck inside cooking the same old thing. So we’ve created a lightened-up and super-easy feast that can be prepared outdoors on the grill and in the smoker.
For the main dish, Roast Beast, we took inspiration from the infamous turducken. What in the world would be a vegetable version of that be? we pondered. What we came up with was a giant and flavorful stack of meaty vegetables with a presentation that steals the show.
We start the meal with one of the biggest hits from our cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table (Thomas Nelson, 2013): smoked dates that are stuffed with goat cheese and pecans. Alongside the main dish, we’re serving roasted Brussels sprouts and apples that are a cinch to prepare, a riff on a family recipe for oyster dressing, and a wonderful sweet potato almondine inspired by Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and Second Line in Memphis.
Arguably, the best part about fall is the fruit, and we celebrate it two times over by poaching fresh pears in Beaujolais and topping that with honey-lemon ricotta and crunchy spiced pumpkin seed granola.
Whether you have a few vegetarians on the guest list or you just want new and interesting ways to prepare fall’s bounty, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here. Here’s hoping you get to wear flip-flops and man the grill like we plan to do this holiday!