This post is for my sister-in-law. My brother emailed me this summer to say they think she has a gluten sensitivity and they were going gluten-free. Being gluten-free is so much easier today than it was 10+ years ago when I went. The options are endless. However, you will waste a lot of money along the way trying all those options to find something gluten-free that tastes...well at least good.
Out of all the food I can't eat anymore, bread is the thing I miss the most. When we go out for dinner and the server brings fresh baked bread for the table, I almost start to cry. Gluten is what makes bread airy, chewy, crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Needless to say, gluten-free bread is my arch nemesis. It is dense, spongy and requires toasting and immediate eating to taste decent. Year after year, I have attempted to make a good gluten-free stuffing for Thanksgiving. It usually turns out just okay (aka leftovers are not saved). Until this year.
Schar is a European gluten-free company I discovered a few years ago when we were in Paris. You can now find their products in your regular grocery store in the States too (or buy it on Amazon). This summer they sent me a free sample of their new Artisan Bakery line of bread. Opening it up, I noticed how much it looked like real bread. I toasted it and immediately thought of how perfect it would be to make a grilled "cheese" sandwich with. My second thought was stuffing. Both turned out amazing.
I believe that stuffing, whether gluten or gluten-free, should be made by scratch. Bagged bread cubes/crumbs stuffing just ends up looking like a gloppy mess. And I honestly think people haven't really enjoyed stuffing for years now because of the shortcuts that we all take. Why not put less on your table, but put more time into each dish. My stuffing recipe doesn't actually take all that much time or energy; it just has a step that you need to do the day before to dry the bread cubes out a little.
Cubing the bread and toasting it in the oven the day before helps dry it out so it absorbs the stock later. I leave it out on the baking sheet all night too. It takes 5 minutes to cut it up and then half an hour to bake.
The next day, your prep work involves dicing up your vegetables. This recipe uses a few of my favorites—fennel bulb and shiitake mushrooms. Now don't get nervous just because you have never cooked with a fennel bulb before. Chop off the top fronds and fingers, cut it down the middle and v-out the core.
Eaten raw, fennel is crisp and licorice tasting. I don't care for it. But saute or roast it and the flavor mellows and marries nicely with the onion and celery. Saute your onion and celery for a few minutes with some salt and pepper. Then add the garlic, mushrooms, fresh rosemary and sage. You now need to season with salt and pepper again. The salt releases the moisture in the mushrooms so they don't require more oil to finish cooking. And if things do get a little too dry while you are cooking, add a little water instead of more olive oil. May as well save your fat consumption for dessert, right?
Once the vegetables are soft, add them to a large bowl with the toasted bread cubes and the fresh parsley. Pour on about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cup of vegetable stock, stirring lightly with a wooden spoon. You want the stuffing moist, but not drenched. Reserve at least a half a cup of vegetable stock to re-moisten the stuffing during baking. Pour into a casserole dish and cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Pull it out and drizzle over the reserved stock and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remember, this is vegan—there isn't any raw meat in here to worry about cooking long enough. A lot of meat stuffing recipes require baking for an hour or more. And you wonder why it is so dry. Not this stuffing. It's moist, flavorful, and perfect on its own. Although I think a nice mushroom gravy would be a delicious addition. Maybe next week.
I'm even going to go so far as to say that I think you could fool family members who aren't gluten-free with this recipe. You won't miss the sausage and you won't miss (and don't need) the egg most stuffing recipes call for. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed. This will be the last gluten-free stuffing recipe you will even need.
Time: 1 hr 30 minutes, divided
8 slices Schar GF Artisan Baker White Bread, cubed
6 slices Schar GF Artisan Baker Multigrain Bread, cubed
1 c. sweet onion, diced
1 c. fennel bulb, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 oz. shiitake mushrooms, rough chop
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. course kosher salt
1 tsp. course black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped
2 1/4 c. vegetable stock, divided, plus more as needed
The night before, preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place the cubed bread on a pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit out, as is, overnight.
The following day, preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a casserole pan. In a skillet, sauté the onion, fennel, celery and half the salt and pepper with the oil for 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic, mushrooms, the fresh rosemary and sage, and the remaining salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water as needed if the pan becomes too dry, just to keep the mixture moist. Sauté another 6 minutes until soft and remove from heat.
In a large bowl, mix the dried bread cubes, vegetable mixture, the fresh parsley, and 1 cup of the vegetable stock to start. Add an additional 3/4 cup until the mixture is moist but not soggy, reserving about 1/2 a cup of the stock for later.
Place stuffing mixture in the casserole pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and evenly pour over the other 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes, baking for a total of 35 minutes.
Nutritional Estimations: Calories 263. Total Fat 5 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 789 mg. Potassium 222 mg. Total Carbs 52 g. Fiber 8 g. Sugars 7 g. Protein 4 g. Vitamin A 15%. Vitamin C 13%. Calcium 6%. Iron 11%.