When thinking of Thanksgiving dinner people usually mention the turkey first, but for me, it was always ALL about the stuffing. Okay, I know that if it’s not going inside the bird it’s supposed to be called dressing.
But I’m getting sidetracked here, because what I wanted to say was that those first few gluten-free Thanksgivings were especially difficult since I was no longer able to have the one dish I looked forward to the most. Be it stuffing or dressing.
But just because I couldn’t have it any longer, didn’t mean I stopped making it. Why should everyone else be denied? Even though I admit, it was torture for me, smelling the familiar scents and not being able to sample it without spending my Thanksgiving in bed. =(
So…not wanting to feel completely left out I experimented with various gluten-free recipes, but I couldn’t seem to get it right. The flavors were off. The texture was wrong. The toasted cubes had to be crisp, but not so much they chipped a tooth. It needed to be moist, without being soggy or gritty. Sometimes it was so bad I just tossed the whole thing in the garbage. And for a couple of years I tried to tell myself I didn’t really need it anyway.
And then finally, it all came together. And I was able to have my fruity dressing again.
And I was a very happy girl! =D
And the secret all came down to one thing. The bread! A good gluten-free dressing is only as good as the gluten-free bread you choose. Okay, maybe there’s a little more to it, but it’s sure a good place to start.
And since I’m all about trying to make gluten-free cooking easier, I’m going to talk about store bought bread. I have found that the best gluten-free bread for making dressing is the kind that’s not too dry, nor too heavy. It looks and feels more like the old kind of bread we used to be able to eat, without having to put it in the toaster first. It should be able to absorb liquid without falling to pieces. In fact, I like a bread that holds up well if you make the dressing a couple of days in advance – which has always been my preference. Not only does it save me time on the big day, since all I have to do is reheat it, but it gives all of the herbs and dried fruits a chance to really fuse together with the bread for the best flavor. In my opinion it’s actually better that way!
So…whatever brand you enjoy, I would suggest looking for those qualities. Personally, my current favorite is Rudi’s multigrain. And no, I’m not receiving any compensation for saying that. =)
There’s just something about the texture and the way it absorbs the vegetable broth that makes it a great choice for getting the moist (not soggy) dressing my family loves so much.
As to whether the dressing should be crunchy, soft, or a combination of the two – I will leave it to you to decide. Lately, our family seems to focus more on the size of the cubes – from one end of the spectrum to the other. My son prefers them as small as possible. He actually asked me if I could just use crumbs. So I compromise by cutting the cubes as small as I can, without turning them into dust. =)
- GF bread (like Rudy's Multigrain - so that it equals approximately 14 - 16 oz.) - 1 loaf
- butter or vegan butter - 6 - 8 oz.
- chopped onion - 1 cup
- chopped celery - 1 cup
- chopped mushrooms - 2 cups
- chopped apple (with the peel) - 2 heaping cups
- minced or chopped dried apricots - 1 1/2 cups
- dried cranberries or raisins or currants - 1 cup
- sea salt - 1 teaspoon
- ground pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
- Thyme - 2 teaspoons
- Rosemary - 3/4 teaspoon
- fresh Sage leaf (minced) or 1 teaspoon ground sage - 3 teaspoons
- GF vegetable broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer) - 1 - 1 1/4 cup*
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cube the GF bread (to the size you prefer) and lay it out on a cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes (turning once or twice so they toast on each side). If you cook it longer the bread will be more like croutons and may require even more liquid. If you like your dressing on the crunchy side, you may prefer it this way.
However, if you want it to be on the softer side, I suggest removing it while the outside is crisp and there's still a little give to the bread.
Turn the oven up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking dish.
In a skillet melt butter/vegan butter. Add onions and saute lightly for a couple of minutes before adding the celery and apples. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, dried fruit, herbs, salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are tender (but not mushy).
Mix with the toasted gluten-free bread cubes. I like to use an over-sized bowl so I can really toss it together well. Pour the vegetable broth or chicken broth over the mixture, toss, and scoop into the prepared covered baking dish.
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (it should be hot and steamy when you stir it). Taste it, and adjust moisture level the way you like it, but be careful as it's easy to make GF dressing TOO soggy. If you find you want it moister still, add just a bit of liquid at a time and stir it through the stuffing, letting it sit a minute or two (so the liquid can soak into the cubes), until it reaches the consistency you want.
If you have decided to make this a couple of days in advance of the holiday, now is the time to let it cool and then refrigerate. Then on the day you wish to serve it, take it out about an hour before you plan on reheating it, give it a stir and then proceed with the reheating process. I have popped it in the oven and even microwaved it. Once it's heated all the way through, check the moisture level for the last time, adding a bit more broth, if need be.
If you want a crunchier top - proceed as follows:
Remove the lid and return it to the oven for an additional 10 - 15 minutes (or until the top is as crispy as you like it). If you prefer it to remain soft, keep it covered.
Serves approximately - 8 - 10 - But this really depends upon what else you're serving and how much everyone eats! =)
* I have also substituted organic unfiltered apple juice for the vegetable broth and that worked very nicely too!
The photo shows freshly made dressing.