Searching for an elegant vegetarian entree for a holiday meal? This vegetable wellington is the perfect choice for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or anytime a delicious vegetarian main course is a must!
Even the Carnivores at the Table will Devour this Vegetarian Holiday Entree
Circa Thanksgiving 2010, I was desperate for a vegetarian entree to serve a non-turkey-eating guest. Luckily, I happened upon this recipe from Melissa Clark — a food writer for the New York Times and cookbook author of multiple books including In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. The recipe was for a Vegetable Wellington – a variation of a popular beef dish but obviously without the beef. I was intrigued.
My goal was to find a dish that could be prepared ahead of time and would taste hearty enough to count as a suitable substitute for the turkey the rest of us would be enjoying. This mushroom wellington absolutely hit the spot. Everyone enjoyed it, perhaps more than the turkey, and it returned to our menu the following year by request of all guests. So I wrote to Ms. Clark to ask if I could write about the recipe and she obliged happily.
What Exactly is a Vegetable Wellington?
The original dish – a beef wellington – is a beef tenderloin wrapped in mushrooms and puff pastry. Once baked, each bite contains crunchy puff pastry, savory mushrooms and juicy steak. This vegetable variation plays on that concept, keeping the mushrooms in tact but using goat cheese and butternut squash instead of meat.
Ms. Clark was inspired to create this dish as fall arrived and the idea of puffy, flaky pastry swirled in her head. As functional and toasty as the puff pastry is as a blanket for the filling, the ingredients it envelopes really steal the show.
What’s Inside this Elegant Vegetarian Entree?
The filling is simple — butternut squash with a hint of thyme and maple syrup, mushrooms sautéed with white wine, garlic, and shallots, and creamy, crumbled goat cheese. The combination of sweet squash, savory, pungent mushrooms, married together with melted goat cheese and swaddled in flaky puff pastry is nothing short of divine. If you are a vegetarian or are hosting vegetarians, add this recipe to your repertoire.
Can this Mushroom Wellington Be Prepared Ahead of Time?
You can absolutely prepare the mushroom mixture and squash at least a day before. I also experimented with roasting the squash instead of sautéing it, which worked out great. You can roast the squash at the same time as you sauté the mushrooms – a big time-saver especially if you are prepping for a large holiday gathering. On the day you plan to serve this dish, you can prepare the puff-pastry filled wellingtons in the morning, refrigerate, and then just egg wash and bake them right before dinner.
What Substitutions Can I Make in the Filling Ingredients?
You can definitely experiment with using another type of squash such as delicata, which doesn’t even need to be peeled. Or try the mini honey butternut squashes if you see them at the store. Or Acorn or Kuri squash. I bet any and all would work really well. Substitute other mushrooms for the crimini or use a combination. Or add some kale or spinach to the mushroom sauté. Or switch the white wine to a different alcohol – perhaps some dry sherry or brandy. Or change the thyme to rosemary or sage.
Basic Steps to Prepare Vegetable Wellingtons
- Prepare the squash and mushroom mixtures up to a day or two in advance.
- Prep the puff pastries by removing the dough from the freezer and letting it thaw. Roll it out on a floured surface and poke some holes in it before you fill it.
- Put down a layer of mushrooms, then goat cheese crumbles and then the squash, leaving a nice band of puff pastry around the edges.
- Brush the edges with egg wash and then close up the wellingtons. Gently turn them over and egg wash them all over if you are baking immediately. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them.
Helpful Kitchen Tools for Making this Vegetarian Entree
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This puff-pastry wrapped vegetarian entrée will not only please your vegetarian guests, but your meat-eating diners as well. Filled with savory mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and creamy goat cheese, this vegetable wellington will become a staple in your holiday and dinner party meals. (Adapted from a Melissa Clark recipe).
- 4 tablespoons butter or 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil if you roast the squash
- 1 small butternut squash 1 1/4 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (you can buy pre-cut squash at many stores which can be a real time-saver)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika or regular paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 3/4 pound cremini mushrooms trimmed and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 14-16 oz package puff pastry
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 egg whisked with 1/2 teaspoon water.
- If you'll be preparing these immediately, heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment.
- In a very large skillet over high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the squash in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. (If squash won’t fit in a single layer, cook it in batches). Stir and continue to cook until squash is golden, 7 to 10 minutes more. Stir in the syrup, thyme, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute. Scrape mixture into a bowl.
Alternatively, you can roast the squash at 400 degrees in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper - it will take about 20 minutes. You can stir in the syrup, thyme, and paprika when you take it out of the oven. I did this the day before and stored it in a container in the refrigerator.
- Turn the heat down to medium and melt the remaining butter in the skillet. Stir in garlic and shallot; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and remaining salt. Cook until mushrooms are soft and their juices evaporate, about 10 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until the mixture is dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pepper and parsley. Taste and add more salt if needed. You can also do this the day before, if you like.
Unwrap the puff pastry and place one on a piece of parchment or silicone silpat-style mat that you can transfer directly to your sheet pan for baking. Ms. Clark cuts her puff pastry sheets into into two 5-by-15-inch rectangles. I do not cut the puff pastry. I wanted a larger finished wellington that I could slice into pieces. Using a fork, poke holes in the pastry to let it steam and create crispy layers (less puff - more crisp layers).
Spread mushrooms on each pastry rectangle leaving 1/4-inch border. Spoon the cheese crumbles over the mushrooms. Then spoon the squash over the cheese, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border (it will look like a stripe of squash lying on a bed of cheese and mushrooms).
Brush the exposed borders of dough on each rectangle with the egg wash. Fold the long sides up to meet in the middle and pinch together to seal; pinch the ends, too. Repeat with other piece of puff pastry.
Transfer the parchment or silicone mat with pastry on top to the baking sheet. Turn them over so that the seam is face down. If you end up with any small holes in the puff pastry, just close them up with your hands. There isn't any liquid, so a tiny hole won't destroy the wellington. Brush the tops with more egg wash. Bake until they are puffed golden, and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.* Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve.
* I wrote to Ms. Clark to ask her if the puff pastry would be ok if you prepared these early in the day, refrigerated, and just applied the egg wash last minute and baked them. She said it would be fine, but to expect a few minutes extra baking time if they were cold from the refrigerator. I used this method and it worked perfectly!