Bear Makes Brunch: Holiday Stuffing

Well, it’s officially the holiday season! Or so we assume, since the radio stations have already begun their holiday music marathons (and in November, no less). As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas is not far behind, we thought we ought to keep up with the season and begin our holiday food marathon!

One of the problems with traditional American holiday food is that it usually has copious amounts of butter, cream, milk, cheese—staple ingredients in mashed potatoes, cornbread, and even the turkey! So instead of taking you out in the city, Brunch with Bear will be featuring a few recipes that will hopefully make the idea of a home-cooked holiday meal easy and allergy friendly. With Thanksgiving just minutes away, we hope that you will be able to eat more than just a pile of kale (even if you’re one of those people who actually like kale).

To be honest, I am not all that partial to turkey; a slice or two is sufficient, and I really would be fine if we all just roasted a chicken, which is smaller and more manageable in leftover portions. What I do love is stuffing, which doesn’t actually need to be stuffed into any form of poultry at all. A few weeks ago, amidst a fit of holiday inspiration and a surplus of old bread, I researched several stuffing recipes and created some amalgam which is quite simple and delicious!

stuffing (onions and apples)

Stuffing can take many different forms, and can incorporate many different ingredients, from the traditional onions and celery to fruit to gourmet meats. The recipe I created is a fruit-based stuffing, using apples and dried cranberries and raisins, while also keeping some traditional ingredients, like yellow onions. If I made it again, I might try and add more ingredients, such as bacon or perhaps some other spices.

The portions are as follows:

12 cups bread, cubed
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 small apples (about 3 cups), diced
1 cup dried cranberries and golden raisins, mixed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
Liberal dairy-free margarine, butter substitute, or olive oil

Bake for about one hour at 350º F, checking every 15-20 minutes for desired golden-brown-ness and crispy topping.

stuffing (bread)

I used an old French baguette, and sliced it into cubes about 1 inch thick. French bread is a great bread to use for stuffing because baguettes have a nice thick crust which holds up well to the weight of all the stuffing ingredients. I found my largest heat-proof (read: ceramic) mixing bowl and placed the bread in the bowl as a base for the fixings.

stuffing (garlic)

I caramelized the onions with a drizzle of olive oil and a liberal amount of garlic. As many of you already know, I adore garlic, and so elected to use a few fresh cloves. If you are averse to garlic, or prefer a sweeter stuffing, feel free to substitute here. I added the garlic to the oil first, and waited a few seconds so that the garlic would infuse the pan with a little flavor before adding the onions.

stuffing (onions and garlic)

Cooking onions usually takes only a few minutes. Most recipes will say until the onions have “softened,” which you can see when they become less white and more clear, and the edges that you sliced will indeed have softened. I added some salt and pepper to the onions, which you can adjust to taste. Once the onions have softened up a bit, remove them from heat and stir them into the bread cubes.

stuffing (apples)

I used Fuji apples for this recipe because I always had Fuji apples growing up. My family loves them so much that we even have a tree in our backyard, so I used a few of the apples from this year’s crop. The apples from our tree at home are smaller than the ones you’d find in the stores or at a farmers’ market, so three cups are enough for this recipe.

stuffing (apples and raisins)

Again, I heated the pan with a few teaspoons of olive oil, and placed the apples to simmer gently. I added in the golden raisins and dried cranberries, until they became softer and plumper. I also put in a teaspoon of thyme, which created a wonderful aroma and kept the stuffing from being too sweet with all the fruit. (The picture below shows parsley flakes, for some reason. I used thyme in the pan, and parsley in the picture. Ignore the picture!)

stuffing (spices)

Because a lot of stuffing recipes that I found called for large amounts of butter, I compensated with a generous helping (read: a few tablespoons) of my favorite butter substitute, Earth Balance margarine. Earth Balance is even vegan, and they also have a soy-free option if that is something that concerns you. If you do not have a favorite margarine or you have trouble finding Earth Balance in the madness that is shopping in the city, olive oil still satisfies that indulgent palate that appears around the holidays. (You can always use a fancy, expensive olive oil, if that makes you feel better.)

stuffing (before)

I mixed the apples into the bowl and gently tossed the ingredients together, making sure that the bread was coated with the sauce of onions and apples. I transferred the stuffing into a large roasting pan. You can use a roasting pan or even a cake pan; it just needs to be deep enough to hold the moisture of the stuffing. Usually stuffing is, as its name dictates, stuffed into a turkey or a chicken, but I did not have one of those on hand, and instead poured a can of chicken broth over the whole pan. I stirred everything together one last time before placing it in the oven.

stuffing (before, pan)

When I researched recipes for stuffing, the timing varied quite a bit—anywhere between twenty minutes and an hour and a half. I originally set a timer for twenty-five minutes and then started checking it every ten or so. After twenty-five minutes, the top was a nice golden brown, and I stirred the stuffing to redistribute the moisture. I like food to be a little overcooked, which means stuffing should be golden brown and also crispy on the top.

stuffing (after)

The final product was warm and crispy, and a perfect complement to the chicken and arugula salad I was eating that day! The savory combination of onions, garlic, and thyme balanced the sweet flavors of the fruit. Even though I did not cook a whole chicken, the chicken broth mimicked the flavor quite easily, and the stuffing was not mushy at all, which was something I had feared would happen with the broth.

Wherever you are and whatever you are eating this Thanksgiving, the Brunch with Bear team wishes you safe travels and safe, allergy-friendly holiday food! We are thankful for you, our dear readers, for sticking with us all these years and joining us for so many meals.

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