HAM IS GROSS. Bacon is overrated.* And reaching my hand into the severed neck of a raw turkey to remove its bag of innards before cooking? No thanks. Don't consign vegetarians to surviving on bread rolls again this year—do us all a favor and dish up some of our favorite Portland meat-free entrées. Here are some of the best zero-footprint (footprints?) holiday dishes from Portland restaurants, both for stymied omnivorous hosts and vegetarian cooks who are in danger of getting sighed at if they show up with another pot of ratatouille.
Natural Selection (3033 NE Alberta) has a simple fall gnocchi dish composed of little fatty bombs of joy. Chef Aaron Woo explains that he pours a bit of spiced pumpkin purée in the bottom of a bowl, sautés Parisian gnocchi in browned butter, deglazes it with lemon juice, pours that over the pumpkin sauce, then adds roasted apples, Brussels sprouts, toasted hazelnuts, and Parmesan. Voila! "It has very familiar flavors," says Woo. "Comforting, tasty, and besides, who doesn't like gnocchi and browned butter?" Terrible people, that's who.
Cornmeal Crust Pie
How did fruit pies get a corner on the market? Portobello (1125 SE Division) brings entrée-status back to the dish with a crispy cornmeal-crust pie that's loaded with corn, kale, tomato-basil sauce, and a thick cashew cream. It's a knee-knocker.
Cooking for even an all-vegetarian crowd in this town is ridiculously complicated—the table is subdivided into rival sugar-free, gluten-free, allergenic, and dairy-free camps. Into that world steps the uniter: beet salad. Blossoming Lotus (1713 NE 15th) serves a mean one, tossing roasted beets with seasonal citrus, a handful of greens, and pickled red onion. Can't go wrong with adding some roasted walnuts, too.
Carmelized Onion Pizza
One year when the turkey went south, my family dialed up delivery from Hammy's. Greasy pizza turned out to be better than half the things we were planning to cook, anyway, and convinced me that pizza should be a centerpiece of the American holiday meal. Maybe skip Hammy's and make your own by ripping off a delicious set of toppings from the great minds at Dove Vivi (2727 NE Glisan), another cornmeal-crust proponent: mozzarella piled with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and fresh thyme.
Sad Ritz Crackers and "Champagne"
If, yet again, your family and friends have "forgotten" to invite you and your dietary special needs to their blood-slathered holiday feasts, you can easily make your own sumptuous meal with a joyful jaunt to Plaid Pantry and spend your holidays how we do: alone! Just combine a bowl of Christmas M&Ms (they're red and green!) with a package of "holiday" Ritz crackers (shaped like whimsical snowflakes!), Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (great straight from the can!), and wash it all away with a four-dollar bottle of Asti Spumante, which is honestly a meal in itself.
Box of Instant Mashed Potatoes
This one's just for nostalgia's sake, since, let's face it: crappy mashed potatoes are all that you really ever ate at holiday meals anyway. Available at any Fred Meyer and better gas stations everywhere.
* The opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily align with those of the rest of the Mercury's food and drink editorial staff, who disagree. Also: Get a load of how they imagine one disembowels a turkey.—Ed.