Stuffing is not supposed to be a gray, gummy, overly salty mess that serves only to be manipulated to form a vessel for mass amounts of gravy. Oh no. It is supposed to be a delicious dish unto itself, moist and crunchy at the same time, studded with savory bits of veggies and seasonings, with a dollop of gravy slathered on top.
And yet, the gray and gummy stuffing is what my decidedly ungourmet daughters want on their holiday plates. Plus vats more gravy. And that wobbly cranberry sauce out of the can instead of my REAL homemade cranberry sauce or chutney.
Bah humbug I say.
Channeling my late Grandma Trudie, Atlanta, GA-born-and-bred, I made my family an awesome Southern Cornbread Stuffing (to be properly Southern one must refer to it as Dressing, not Stuffing) for our Thanksgiving feast and I wanted to share this naturally gluten-free recipe with y'all.
First, several days before you need your stuffing, you should make up a skillet of cornbread for another meal. There are lots of great gluten-free cornbread recipes out there (some right on the side of the cornmeal package or box), but I am in the midst of reviewing a new gluten-free cookbook, Jules E. Dowler Shepard's "Free for All Cooking" (review to follow soon in a separate post), so I made her recipe for Cornbread, leaving out the corn kernels and hot peppers. This made a terrific cornbread, fluffy and crumbly at the same time, with lots of Crispy edges from being finished up in the oven in an iron skillet.
Since I was intending much of this cornbread for my Stuffing later on, I loosely wrapped the leftovers and kept them in my bread box to dry out.
On Thanksgiving morning I prepared my stuffing and baked it early on, so I could make room for roasting the Big Bird later. Then I only had to reheat it and some other side dishes when the turkey was resting. Here's my recipe:
Southern Cornbread Dressing
3 cups cornbread, crumbled
2 Tbsp. butter (plus extra softened butter to grease your casserole dish)
3 ribs celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (I had a mix of red and green garden peppers from my freezer, but you could use 1 red or green fresh pepper, seeded and chopped)
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth (if using store-bought broth, check to make sure that it is gluten-free)
2 tsp. dried sage, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste (cornbread was salty enough for me, so I just added pepper, but use your palate as your guide)
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spread cornbread out on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring them around a couple of times during the cooking. Let cool on sheet.
Butter a 1 quart casserole dish. Set aside
Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in frying pan. Add onion and celery and fry until soft and golden, about 5 minutes, add peppers and fry another 7-10 minutes, to soften them up too.
Crank oven temperature up to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, toss toasted cornbread with sauteed vegetables and sage. Add stock in slowly and mix gently to moisten. Season with salt and pepper to taste BEFORE adding beaten eggs and mix gently to keep cornbread cubes from crumbling too much.
Turn out dressing into pregreased baking dish and pat down gently into the pan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Serves 6-8 stuffing lovers.
I may be Donna Quixote, forever tilting at windmills in the hopes that I can get my kids to appreciate real stuffing and real cranberry sauce on the holiday table, but I do know that my husband and I slurped down this great, naturally GF Cornbread Dressing and enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope you enjoy it too.
I'm sending a plate over to EKat's Kitchen for a Friday Potluck, and will be interested to see what others are making for Christmas week. Myself, I'm hustling back to the kitchen to start two pans of lasagna (one awesome veggie, gluten-free lasagna, and one glutenous meaty lasagna), a vegetable and dip spread, and a gluten-free version of my cousin-in-law's-wife's amazing Irish Cream Cheesecake for our Christmas Eve supper tonight. If the cheesecake recipe works I'll be posting that recipe here later on.