11.23.10 The Right Stuff(ing)
Stuffing! What can I say? If you're not still eating at your mother's table, you just want to recreate her stuffing recipe and aren't really interested in anything different. Right? Well, on the off chance that there is someone out there willing to try something new, I'll offer you a few suggestions. There are so many schools of stuffing, from cornbread and sausage to sourdough and sage to sticky rice and water chestnuts. Stuffing reflects tradition and ethnicity perhaps even more than the turkey. And of course there are always the questions of to stuff or not to stuff, and m***t or crispy. Above is the winning ciabatta and chorizo stuffing from Food52's contest last year. It features garlicky cubes of bread with chorizo, shiitakes and sweet potato. Another interesting option is this prune and apple stuffing posted by Amanda Hesser.
It's a simple affair that dates back to 1924, and you can customize it according to the kind of bread and nuts you prefer. Which brings me to a good point: stuffing is perfect for ad libbing. You know the technique by heart: something starchy (bread, rice, even cous cous); something rich (butter, cream, eggs, stock); something crunchy (nuts, water chestnuts, celery); something vegetal (mushrooms, fennel); something spicy (sage, white pepper, chile); something sweet (raisins, currants, prunes). Go on, let your freak flag fly! Make up your own stuffing recipe! No? OK, here are a few more.
This vegetarian version is made with eggy challah and plenty of butter. And here's one from the now-defunct Gourmet, featuring sourdough and pancetta with the classic addition of chestnuts. Last, but not least, below is the recipe I will be making this year when, for the first time, G can tuck into his own personal pan of gluten-free stuffing! It's made with the delicious vegan cornbread for which I posted a recipe a while back, spicy Italian sausage and tart whole cranberries. I've also listed instructions for cooking stuffing both in and out of the bird. I personally love the rich, almost souffle-like quality of stuffing baked in the cavity, but I know others are partial to a crunchy crust. Either way, don't skip on the butter, milk/cream or stock as you don't want dusty, dry stuffing. Do your mother proud.
GLUTEN-FREE CORN BREAD STUFFINGmakes 6 cups1 loaf corn bread (gluten-free recipe below)1 cup pecans3 leeks (about 1/2 pound; white and pale green parts only)2 celery ribs3 tablespoons unsalted butter1/3 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy)1 cup fresh cranberries1/8 cup sugar1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley1 tablespoon minced sage1 cup chicken brothPreheat oven to 325° F.Cut corn bread into 1/2-inch cubes and spread on a couple of baking sheets. Bake until just dry, about 20 minutes, then transfer one sheet of cubes to a large bowl. Spread the pecans on the empty baking sheet and toast in the oven, about 15 minutes.Halve leeks lengthwise and slice crosswise into 1/2" pieces. Dump into a colander and rinse well with cold water to remove any dirt. Chop celery.In a large skillet, melt butter and cook leeks and celery over moderately low heat, stirring, until leeks are tender, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove sausage from casings and break into small pieces. Add sausage to leek mixture and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until sausage is cooked through, about 5 minutes.In a small heavy saucepan, cook cranberries with sugar over moderately high heat, stirring, until they begin to burst. Chop parsley.To the bowl of corn bread add the remaining baking sheet of corn bread cubes, pecans, sausage mixture, cranberries, parsley, broth, and more salt and pepper, as needed. Toss together. Cool stuffing completely. Stuffing may be made up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring stuffing to room temperature before proceeding.For cooking stuffing inside poultry:Any frozen poultry destined for stuffing should be completely thawed, and the stuffing itself brought to room temperature before it's put into the turkey. Do not stuff your bird the night before you cook it; such a seeming time-saver can have dangerous results. Instead, it is best to loosely fill the bird's neck and body cavities immediately before roasting. And always use a meat or instant-read thermometer. Stuffing baked inside the bird is done at 160°-165°F. After roasting, let your stuffed poultry stand at least 15 to 20 minutes, a double assurance that the requisite temperatures for food safety have been reached.For cooking all or part of stuffing outside poultry:In a shallow baking dish, bake stuffing in preheated 325° oven for 1 hour (for m***t stuffing, bake covered entire time; for less m***t stuffing with a slightly crisp top, uncover halfway through baking time).DANA SLY’S BLUE RIBBON VEGAN CORNBREAD(for more about this cornbread and the scoop on Dana Sly, see here)Serves 92 tablespoons ground flax seed6 tablespoons water1 cup gluten-free flour1 cup yellow cornmeal1/4 cup rapadura sugar4 teaspoons baking powder3/4 teaspoons sea salt1 cup hemp milk, or soy milk (or buttermilk, for non-vegans)1/4 cup canola oil, or raw sesame oil (or melted butter, for non-vegans)Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9" cast-iron skillet.Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ground flax seed, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.Add the ground flax seed mixture, milk, and oil to the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth (do not overbeat.)Turn into prepared skillet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve.