Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

I whipped up this pot of savoury delightfulness for our Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and I figured with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in America, you might find it handy. This particular incarnation of this recipe is both gluten-free and pork-free to reflect the dietary restraints of my Thanksgiving dinner guests, but feel free to replace the gluten-free cornbread with regular cornbread (may I suggest this recipe?) and the turkey bacon with regular bacon or sausage.

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Start with your cornbread. Because I was running low on time and energy (getting sick the week before Thanksgiving is not cool), I made the cornbread from the Bob’s Red Mill mix, and it turned out just fine.

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I crumbled the cooled cornbread onto a baking sheet and toasted it at 350°F for about 15 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

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Once it cooled I sealed it in a bag.

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Meanwhile, I dumped an entire package of turkey bacon in a pan and fried it up.

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Then I started chopping. In a large pot, I dumped about 1/3 cup butter, then chopped up 1 1/2 large onions, 4 green onions, and a whole head of fresh garlic and plopped those in as well. I heated it on medium and stirred the onions while they softened.

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Then I chopped up 1 bunch fresh tarragon and 1 bunch fresh sage and dumped those in.

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Then 2 red peppers and 4 stalks celery. I added in some pepper to taste.

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Then I chopped up the turkey bacon and hucked that in as well.

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Because I was making the stuffing the day before, I put the vegetables in a bowl to cool and then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.

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On the day of, put everything together. In a bowl, whisk together about 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.

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Add to that about 1 litre (~4 cups) low sodium chicken or turkey broth. Give that a good stir.

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Dump your cornbread and your vegetable mix into a large baking dish or your slow cooker pot and stir them around. Pour the eggy broth over top and give it another stir to make sure it’s made it all the way through.

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So if you have space in your oven the day of, feel free to bake this (at about 350°F for an hour or so) to make sure that it’s all nice and crusty around the edges. If not, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on medium until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s incredibly tasty.

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Sausage Rolls

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I made these for our end-of-the-year softball team potluck, and despite me making four dozen of them, they were gone within five minutes of opening up the container. I’ve never made sausage rolls before, but I do love them, so it was easy to figure out what should go in them. I will definitely make them again, and probably tweak what I throw in, just for variety’s sake – you should, too!

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I started by chopping up a bunch of end-of-season herbs from my garden: a bit of sage, parsley, and chives. There is probably about 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs here.

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Then I chopped up 1 package white mushrooms, about 3 cups minced. Ordinarily I’d probably mince up 1 large onion and do half onion, half mushroom, but one of the potluck attendees is allergic to onions so I left it out.

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Then grab some (500g) uncooked sausages. These are a little on the spicy side, but nothing too crazy.

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Slice through the casing and remove the meat.

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Chuck the sausage meat in a bowl together with your herbs, the mushrooms and onions (if you used onions and/or mushrooms), 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, and about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Feel free to season with salt and pepper as well. It turned out that I had bought pre-seasoned panko so I didn’t bother.

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Mix the sausage up thoroughly with the other ingredients. I found it was easier (if more disgusting) to use my hands, but you could probably get away with doing this in the bowl of a stand mixer as well.

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Now, remove from the fridge that package of puff pastry sheets that has been defrosting in there overnight.  Slice each sheet into three equal strips.

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Grab some mustard. I bought this fancy Tarragon Dijon stuff and I don’t regret it.

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Brush a line of mustard down the length of each strip of puff pastry.

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Evenly distribute all your sausage meat on top of your mustard line on each strip.

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Bring the edges of each strip of pastry together to seal the meat into a long tube. You may have to stretch the pastry a bit to do this, depending on how full it is.

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Shove your sausage tubes into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up the dough and the meat and make it easier for you to slice them. You can preheat your oven now, to about 425°F. My oven cooks a little hotter (you’ll notice the finished ones are slightly charred on the bottom) so feel free to reduce the heat to whatever you need to if you have the same problem.

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Slice the now-firm tubes into 8 equal pieces – this will give you 48 sausage rolls.

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Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffy and the sausage is cooked through.

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Allow them to cool slightly before you stuff them all in your face. I don’t know how long they will last after baking them, in terms of storage, because I never got the chance to find out.

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Chicken with Tarragon Butter: In the Woods

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This is a great make-ahead meal for two for a short camping trip from The Camping Cookbook. I froze all the ingredients before we left so they would stay cool and solid until I needed them.  Feel free to increase the recipe if you have more campers. You may have seen a few teaser shots of this from last week, because I was so very clever in my pre-preparation.

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Start with 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Slice those in half, lengthwise, so you have four long strips.  If you think those strips are too big, slice the breasts into three or four, depending on your preference.

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Mix together your marinade of  1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 teaspoons olive oil.

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Shove your chicken into the marinade for at least 30 minutes(I put mine in a plastic container and froze it).

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Meanwhile, mix up your lovely compound butter.

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Stir together 1/4 cup softened butter with 1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, and a finely minced shallot (use 1/4 of a small onion if that’s all you have).

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I chucked this in the freezer as well.

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When you’re ready to go, pull your (thawed) chicken out of the marinade and grill it on the fire/stove until cooked through, which will depend on how thick you sliced it. This looks sickly because it was gloomy under the tarp where I was cooking and I needed a flashlight to see…

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Serve hot with dollops of the tarragon butter on top. I actually forgot to pull out the butter until we were all done so I put it in the hot pan to let it melt.

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We served this with some peas and corn and garlic mashed potatoes.

For the peas and corn, mix together 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup frozen corn and steam for a minute or so until cooked.

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Toss the cooked vegetables with 1/4 cup finely chopped mint and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Again, I mixed the herbs into the butter ahead of time and froze it.

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For the potatoes, boil and mash 2 potatoes of your choosing. I like to leave the skins on.

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Scoop in 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 2 teaspoons mixed herbs (fresh or dried, your choice), and 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I made a compound of this ahead of time) and serve.

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TADA. Gourmet in the woods.

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Tarragon Chicken

I have vague memories of my mother making this a long time ago, when we lived in British Columbia.

The combination of fresh tarragon and lemon and salt permeates every inch of the chicken and it’s lovely and moist.

So take your whole chicken.  This little baby is a local Newfoundland chicken, one of the few forms of livestock produced in-province.  You can tell that they haven’t used any growth hormones because of how small it is.  And they taste really good.

Remove all the giblets and cut off the excess skin.

Work your fingers under the skin to make room for the herbs ‘n’ such.

In a small bowl, mix together some tarragon leaves and some sea salt.  Squish up the tarragon a bit.

Work it under the skin of the chicken, and then tuck in a few lemon slices.

Put extra tarragon and lemon inside the chicken.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan, or a baking pan with a small rack underneath.  This keeps the chicken out of the juices it will leak during cooking and prevents it from getting soggy.  I trussed the chicken up a little bit to give it some shape.  Just tie a bit of kitchen string around the legs and tuck it under the wings to hold everything in place.  Just keep in mind that trussed chickens don’t cook as evenly as untrussed chickens.

We’re going to do a one-dish meal here, so I’m also roasting some potatoes, together with some carrots.  Slice them up and toss them in the pan around the chicken, with a drizzling of oil and some salt and pepper.

Roast at 375°F until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180°F.  Stir up the vegetables once or twice to make sure they brown evenly.  Stick a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) for this reading.  We have a digital thermometer from Lee Valley that beeps at us when the chicken is done.  Also, if you cut into the chicken at this point, all the juices will run clear and the meat will be white, not pink.  I’m going to turn the carcass and leftovers into chicken noodle soup.  Stay tuned.

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon, Tarragon, and Toasted Almonds

I usually make this recipe with green beans, but I couldn’t find any good ones so I used asparagus instead.

Take about 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds and toast them briefly in the oven.  Put a shallow layer of them  on the bottom of a pan or baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for 5-10 minutes, or until the almonds are the desired colour of brown.  Be careful not to burn them (because I totally did the first time).  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Strip the leaves from 4-5 stalks of fresh tarragon (or frozen) and set aside.

Cut the tough bottoms of a bunch or two of fresh asparagus off and bash the lower ends of what’s left with a rolling pin.

Chuck the stalks into a wide frying pan or wide shallow sauce pan and cover halfway with water.  Add a splash or two of lemon juice.  Steam gently for a few minutes until the stalks are bright green.  I was doing other things and accidentally overcooked mine a bit, as the photo shows.  You want them nice and firm.

Drain the asparagus and put it in a serving dish. Top with a generous dollop of butter, another splash of lemon juice, and sprinkle with the tarragon and almonds.  Toss until the butter is melted and serve.  Two bunches of asparagus makes enough for 7-8 people.

Easter (Eater) Dinner

On Sunday the Pie and I had KK, Il Principe, and D, J, and S over for an Easter feast.

I have a lot on my plate this week (and I’m not talking about food here) so I’m going to draw the recounting of this tale out as long as I possibly can.  I’ll try to give you a post a day about all the fun and fantastic things we ate.

I love to have dinner parties.  I think it’s my parents’ influence again.  I’m not really happy unless I can stuff someone else with food until he or she feels the need to lie down.  It really makes my day.

That said, entertaining, on a small or large scale, takes a lot of work and a lot of planning.  Timing is pretty much everything, and it takes practice to get it all to happen at the same time.  The Pie and I have it down to an exact science at this point.  We take a gander at what time things are supposed to be done, chuck them in the oven or on the stove at the various points in time we think they need to go in, then we shut our eyes tight and cross our fingers that everything will turn out properly.  Most of the time we’re right but it took years to get us to this stage.

I have also learned the art of making things ahead of time.  This saves a lot of panic in the kitchen when you’re trying to get everything finished at the same time.  If there are some dishes on your menu that can be popped in the microwave or in the oven for reheating at the last minute then all the better.  Another important thing to remember, and something that I only recently learned, is that you don’t have to make absolutely everything from scratch.  There is nothing wrong with adding store-bought chips to your dips, or purchasing bread as a side.  The more stuff you make the more complications you are going to have.  Besides, sometimes the store versions of things are actually better.  You don’t have to have absolute control over everything that goes on your menu, and so that is why, finally, it is also important to let other people give you a hand if they want to.  Kª wanted to bring a salad, and you know what?  I thought that was a great idea.  And it was a great salad.

Items to be posted this week:

Menu

Appetizers

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (made the day before)

Pita Chips (store-bought — really, you don’t have to be a domestic maven all the time – I get the In Snax sea salt versions from In Foods Inc.  They are totally tasty.)

Mains

Ham with Cloves (pre-cooked for simplicity)

Red Curry Quinoa (made the day before)

Sides

Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (made by Kª – I don’t have a link because I didn’t make it)

Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash (made the day before)

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon, Tarragon, and Toasted Almonds

Roasted Red Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Quick Drop Biscuits

Dessert

Strawberry Glazed Angel Food Cake (strawberry component prepared the day before)

Waiting for the feast.