To paraphrase a quote from beloved cartoon character “Maxine”, penned by artist John Wagner, Thanksgiving is a holiday where you give your guests the bird after they’ve told you to stuff it.
Not just funny and clever, the quip pays homage to the traditional stuffing at a holiday meal, whether the main course is fowl, ham or fish. But more and more, it is just as likely to be none of the above.
Many people now opt for a vegetarian or vegan banquet that omits meats however cooked, or a gluten-free diet that avoids the usual bread stuffing. So, without the meat portion, and without gluten, where does that leave traditional favorites of stuffing and gravy?
Good news. You can have zero meat, nothing with gluten, and still indulge in hearty, satisfying stuffing sauced with gravy. The following recipes provide options that let you go full traditional dinner with meat and stuffing, or meat and gluten-free stuffing, or no meat and either gluten-free or regular stuffing. And gravy. Can’t forget the gravy.
You can use these recipes as a template and add your own homemade touches, such as minced red or green peppers or a pinch or two of garlic. These recipes are also easy enough to make that you can have them ready, perhaps in smaller portions, for those diners who prefer them and still serve others a traditional holiday meal. That way you help to assure everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
Hearty sage is the defining taste
1 medium onion peeled and chopped
3 medium celery stalks chopped
5 Tbls butter or margarine
4-5 slices of bread, white, whole wheat or gluten-free
3 C freshly-made or left-over mashed potatoes, cooled
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 Tbls dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the bread and cut or tear it into pieces. In a large pot, saute the onion and celery in the butter or margarine over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until warm. rather than hot. Stir in bread, potatoes, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Add eggs and fold into the potato mixture.
Grease a medium-sized or larger casserole dish and pour the stuffing mixture into it. Bake covered for the first 30 minutes and uncovered for 20 to 30 more minutes or until the top is slightly browned and crispy. Serves 6-8.
Note: If you wish, this stuffing can be placed to cook inside a turkey rather than an oven. Also, if preferred, you may add crumbled, cooked sausage to the stuffing mix just before folding in the eggs.
GLUTEN-FREE AND/OR VEGAN STUFFING
Have the stuffing your way
8 C bread cubes, made from firm white gluten-free sandwich bread
1/2 C butter
3 C peeled, diced onions (about 3 medium onions)
1 C diced celery, including green tops
2 Tbls dried parsley, or 1/4 C fresh chopped parsley
1 to 2 tsp. poultry seasoning or Bell’s Seasoning, to taste
2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, optional
2 C gluten-free broth (chicken, beef, turkey, vegetable, etc.)
3 large eggs
Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet, and let them sit uncovered, overnight, to become a bit stale. Or toast lightly, turning once, and let cool. Sitting overnight or toasting will help give the stuffing better texture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. If you’ll be baking the stuffing outside the bird, lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish or similar-size pan. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, and sauté onions and celery slowly until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and spoon the onion-celery mixture over them.
Add the parsley, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper, and toss the mixture with a large spoon or spatula until it’s thoroughly combined. Whisk together the broth and eggs, and stir into the bread mixture.
Spoon the stuffing into the turkey. Or spoon it into the prepared pan, and cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil.
If you’re baking it in a pan, bake the stuffing for 1 hour, until it’s firm and no liquid is evident. For a crusty top, remove the foil about 20 minutes before the end of the baking time. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.
Recipe has choices to make it vegetarian
2 to 3 Tbls cornstarch
2 C gluten-free broth (chicken, beef, turkey, vegetable etc.), cold
2 Tbls pan drippings from meat, melted butter, or vegetable oil
salt and ground black pepper (optional), to taste
Optional: fresh or dried thyme, sage, minced onion, parsley, or poultry seasoning, to taste.
To make the gravy: Combine the cornstarch with 1/2 C of the broth, whisking it or shaking it in a jar until no lumps remain. Place the cornstarch mix and the remaining broth into a saucepan. For extra flavor and richness, stir in pan drippings or melted butter; omit this step, if desired.
Cook the gravy over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and herbs. Yields 2 cups or 8 to 10 servings.
By Jean Redstone