We all grew up with our go-to cheap-and-easy family dinner (for us, it was elbow macaroni with tomato juice and lots of salt). But what about the go-to classy dinner, for when company was coming over and we really needed to impress them?
My Mom was all about her “chicken squares.” She’d gotten the recipe from a luncheon she’d attended with all of the wives of the execs at my Dad’s company – which seems so antiquated. “Ah yes, the men are working, we must lunch together!” But, well, it did bring these chicken squares into our lives.
The original chicken squares were creamy (thanks to a lot of cream cheese) and, well, chicken-y. So naturally, they were a no-go when I went vegetarian, and I never really thought of how I’d replace the chicken (I considered a version with cubed tofu, but tofu isn’t quite tender enough). Then when I went vegan, they pretty much went right out of the question.
Little did I know that this recipe uses refrigerated crescent rolls, many of which are accidentally vegan. You could also do a similar thing using a vegan-friendly puff pastry, which will be slightly flakier.
I decided to finally make an attempt at veganizing the squares. I used my favourite vegan main – mushrooms – in place of the chicken, and used canned coconut milk to bind it together. Although it’s not as thick and creamy as my mother’s recipe (again: cream, freakin’, cheese) I like this version better because the coconut milk almost becomes a gravy, and it lets the mushrooms truly shine.
Flaky mushroom squares
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Nutritional info: Soy-free, nut-free option
- 6 cups crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- Two packages of crescent rolls (you will need 12 triangles, and most come in packs of 8, so you will likely have leftovers) or
- Two sheets of vegan-friendly puff pastry, thawed and cut into six squares, about 4×4″ (again, you will likely have leftovers)
- 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp chopped jarred pimento
- 2 tbsp chopped chives*
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A few tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea brine), optional*
- A small handful of crushed almonds, optional*
My mom used to occasionally swap out chives with an equal amount of green onions for a slightly more flavourful option. Hard recommend for this as well!
The chickpea brine and almonds are used as an “egg” wash and a garnish on top; it’s totally optional (my Mom used to crush croutons on top). For a nut-free version, you can use crushed sunflower, hemp or pumpkin seeds, or just omit entirely.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and smoked paprika. Sautee until they are softened and reduced in size (they will likely total about 3 cups when cooked).
- When the mushrooms have reduced slightly, add in the canned coconut milk, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix, reduce heat and cook until the coconut milk has evaporated slightly. Remove the mix and add to a large bowl.
- Mix in the pimento and chives, stirring to combine.
- If using crescent rolls, carefully pinch two triangle pieces together and seal the cracks off to make them into a square. If using puff pastry, cut your squares evenly!
- Spoon a few tablespoons of the mushroom mixture into the middle of your squares. Pull opposite corners to opposite corners, pinching at the top, and sealing off the cracks down the sides.
- Optional: Brush each square with a bit of aquafaba and sprinkle the crushed almonds on top.
- Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops of the squares become golden brown.
Serve hot and enjoy! These keep very well in the freezer if you do every step up until Step 7 and then freeze in an airtight container (the chicken version of this was my go-to as a university student). Serve alongside warm mashed potatoes, a fresh salad or cooked Brussels sprouts (which I’ll have a recipe for later this week).