Having watched those with celiac disease for awhile now, it occurs to me that one of the biggest hurdles – kinda like the grieving process for any loss – is how to deal with missing the delicious stuff you used to eat. That seems to be hardest with comfort food, or with food that is closely associated with the most heartwarming traditions – like Christmas or Thanksgiving food. I know how much my wife misses her mom’s pumpkin pie, for example, which she can never have again (not because she is now celiac, but because her mom has passed away). She really misses that pie, especially at Christmas and Thanksgiving. There’s another thing that my celiac-afflicted community misses in much the same way. What’s turkey without stuffing? What’s Christmas dinner without stuffing, for that matter? Sure, it’s a simple dish we take for granted, but you really, really miss it when you realize you can’t make those yummy cold turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches later that night from the leftovers without stuffing in them!
A couple of years ago, at such a family gathering, everything at Jan’s house was perfect for dinner – except that we had no solution for the stuffing conundrum. We had an urgent conference in the kitchen. Let’s face it – too much of what passes for bread in the gluten-free world is unworthy of anything but toasting and choking down with large volumes of peanut butter and jelly to mask the taste. But stuffing is also about texture, not just taste, and GF bread had failed all attempts at anything evoking the comfort of bygone stuffing experiences.
Of great necessity is sometimes born ingenuity. With an hour to go before dinner, we opened the pantry, pulled out the spice rack, and started throwing things together.
Astonishingly, it worked. Don’t ask me how, but there was alchemy in the following ingredients. After crowing delight and moans of satisfaction from the dinner table, we decided to write this one down on a paper plate, so as not to forget it. I am advised that this recipe has now migrated out beyond our family circle, to land on others’ holiday tables. That’s pretty gratifying, I must say – given the huge value of comfort food and its place in family tradition. Here’s the recipe:
- 10-12 slices of Gluten Free bread (Whatever you have should work, but I’ve found that keeping the ends from every loaf used throughout the past few months, in a bag in the freezer, lets you have pieces with a bit more backbone than regular slices).
- 2 cups turkey or chicken broth
- 1 med onion, diced
- 1 medium apple, diced
- 1/2 cup (or more) dried cranberries (Craisins)
- 2-3 tbsp bacon bits (real or simulated) NOTE: Some people leave the bacon bits out entirely. Me, I like the smokiness and richness that bacon adds to dishes that go with meat. It’s why I like bacon in my red cabbage, for example. But go ahead and leave it out, if you want to.
- 4-5 tbsp Butter (very important…do not skimp)
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning(or to your taste) or oregano, rosemary, and/or sage
- 1 tbsp seasoning salt
- Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes, Pour broth over the bread to soak.
- Season with poultry seasoning, and let it stand while you sauté the diced onions in 2 tbsp butter for 5-6 min. over medium heat (until just translucent – do not burn).
- Add diced apple, craisins, and bacon bits, sauté for another 3-4 minutes
- Add seasoning salt, stir and sauté
- In another, large frying pan, put soaked bread cubes with 2-3 tbsp of butter, over medium heat. Stir so it does not stick.
- Stir in the onion and apple mixture from your other pan.
- Dump everything into an 8 x 12 casserole dish.
- Put into a 325 oven for about 1/2 an hour, to dry it out a bit and make the top brown and crunchy
Serve to anyone…even glutenites. They will not know the difference…
NOTE: Some people like other things in their stuffing, like celery or carrots. If you want to add these, just sauté the vegetables for awhile before you add the onions, because half an hour in the oven is not enough to soften them so that they feel like they belong in the stuffing. Also, if you want to, you can soak the craisins right along with the bread. That plumps them up a bit, just as if they were in the turkey.
I think the trick here is in soaking the bread in broth, then letting the water evaporate out in the oven. Maybe something to do with preserving and concentrating the chickeny goodness of the broth in the bread is what transforms it from mealy mediocrity to something worth calling “stuffing”. In that regard, I am not sure this would even work if stuffed in a turkey cavity. I don’t think there would be enough evaporation happening in there to make this what it needs to be. If someone wants to try it, and compare the result with this recipe, I’d like to hear about it…. Merry GF Christmas, everyone.