Shallot-and-thyme mashed potatoes with cashew gravy for Meatless Monday

Mashed potatoes and gravy would seem an option for plant-based eaters during the holidays, but the dish is often full of hidden menaces. Not only are the potatoes usually made with butter and milk, but the gravy almost always contains chicken, turkey or beef. This recipe, though, calls for nothing more dangerous than shallots and thyme in the spuds, and is topped with a creamy cashew gravy for an all-vegetarian version that doesn't sacrifice any flavor.

See also: Lentil shepherd's pie for a holiday main dish on Meatless Monday

You will need:

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 shallots 3 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter (this is the very best kind -- use olive oil if you don't have any) 1/2 teaspoon or more of salt 1 teaspoon thyme Fresh-ground black pepper 3/4 cup coconut milk 1/2 cup raw cashews 1 1/2 cups water 1 tablespoon corn starch 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (to taste) 1 lemon 1 teaspoon powdered garlic Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Put them in a large pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until fully cooked and tender. While they're boiling, we'll work on the shallots. 2. Peel and thinly slice the shallots. Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until golden-brown, stirring frequently -- five to ten minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn! They should be crispy and golden when you're finished. Set aside until the potatoes are ready and get started on the gravy. 3. Put the cashews in a blender or food processor. Grind into a fine powder. Keep the blender or processor going and slowly add the water. Continue till you've added all the water. 4. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and put about 1/3 of the cashew-water mixture into the saucepan. Add the cornstarch, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken. Looking nice and thick! Add the rest of the cashew-water mixture to the saucepan. Add the juice from the lemon, garlic powder, freshly ground pepper and soy sauce -- add the soy sauce a little at a time and taste as you go; you don't want it to overpower your gravy. Adjust seasonings as necessary. 5. By now, your potatoes should have finished boiling. Drain them well and return them to the pot. Add the vegan butter, coconut milk, shallots, thyme and salt. Mash the potatoes thoroughly, adding more coconut milk if needed to make sure they're nice and creamy. Serve warm, topped with the gravy.

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