Thanksgiving preparation is well underway, here. I don’t have as much precooked as I did a year ago – partly because this year the incapacitating weather is hitting now, but also partly because I am not as incapacitated by it as I was last year… Gradual improvements in my health are high on my list of things for which I am thankful! (If you are wondering, no, that’s not all about the gluten, which does not seem to affect my migraines at all. They had started to improve before I realized that gluten was an issue, and there are some other changes in my life and health.)
But anyhow… I’m still playing around with a first course… A Carnival squash, perhaps with cranberries and pecans? A light soup? Someone commenting on Facebook told me about a wonderful sounding soup she’d made… I don’t want something that hearty fora first course (though I plan to try it another time) but she reminds me that I can make a lovely light soup from onions and beets… both of which I have. (One factor in my planning is that it feels silly to go out and buy vegetables with a kitchen full of vegetables… I want to show thanks for the harvest I already have!)
Anyhow – then perhaps the squash (if we didn’t already eat it,) definitely Brussels sprouts, either sweet potatoes or just possibly garlic mashed (if I start thinking this meal is too orange…) perhaps something with celeriac or kale (which I certainly do have…)
And, oh, yes – the turkey. When I get it ready for the oven, I’ll set the giblets simmering for stock. I plan to make gravy from the drippings – but I have roux cubes on hand, as a fallback… And we’ll have cornbread stuffing.
I have made cornbread stuffing before… and we liked it. We enjoy a little sage breakfast sausage, and onions, and other aromatics and seasonings tossed in with the bread. It occurred to me this time that, since I would be making the cornbread specifically for the stuffing, one convenient make ahead would be to bake the aromatics and seasoning right into the bread. I’ll crumble it to let it dry a little on Wednesday – and then all I’ll have to do on Thursday is moisten it with a little chicken stock and a touch of melted butter, and stuff the bird.
I used my corn muffin recipe as the batter. But I decided that, instead of baking it as muffins, I’d bake it in my 10″ cast iron fry pan, to get a nice brown crust. (Now, it is important here to understand that this is not something I’ve routinely done before, and that, for various reasons, we just recently totally re-seasoned the pan – so gluten in the pan is not an issue.) The pan particularly made sense since I’d be sauteing the aromatics before adding them – why not use the same pan?
So, that’s what I did. I made just one 6 muffin recipe worth of stuffing – there are only 2 of us, it won’t be that large a bird, we don’t need much. You may very well want to double the recipe, in which case use a 12″ pan. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, but your frying pan is oven proof – many but not all are – make sure it is good to 400°, and you can use that. Or just use a cake pan – 2 if you double the recipe…
First, preheat the oven to 400.
I took just a little breakfast sausage – 2 ounces, about enough for one good hearty sausage patty – and crumbled it into the heated pan. I used a pork sausage, but a chicken or turkey one would be fine… even appropriate! And it is optional, if you want to keep some on the side for a vegetarian guest – or for that matter if you want a meatless stuffing for something other than turkey yourself. As it browned, I finely chopped half a medium onion, half a green pepper (you see how easy it will be to double this? I’m really making half a recipe, here…) one rib of celery, and one jalapeno. (I have red fully ripe jalapenos, so used one of them because the color is pretty… but a green one, or any other not too hot pepper would work as well. There’s a little black pepper in the sausage, and I want some zip, but not serious heat.)
After the sausage had started to brown, I added the chopped vegetables and stirred them all around. I just wanted the vegetables to soften a little, and give up a little moisture – they’re going to be cooked twice more, when I bake the bread and then when I roast the turkey… so I didn’t want them overcooked. I scooped most of them out of the pan, so that I could mix them into the batter – and let them cool a few minutes, so their heat wouldn’t start the batter cooking. Now – I took out most but not all the vegetables – and when you look at the pictures, you will see a few that were on the bottom of the pan are just a little… overbrowned? That’s fine with us – but if you’d rather avoid it, remove all the vegetables and sausage.
I did not drain the fat, as this will grease the pan for the bread – but sausage varies a lot in fat content. Go ahead and drain a little, if it looks too greasy… and conversely, if the pan looks dry, add a touch of oil. You don’t want the bread to stick.
While the vegetables were cooling, I made the muffin batter. Note: I use masa harina to give the muffins a nice tender crumb. If you don’t regularly bake the muffins, you can use just regular cornmeal here, instead of buying a bag of masa harina for 1/4 cup… a little crumbly is fine for stuffing.
Then set the pan over heat again, and get it hot. (And skip this if you’re using a cake pan… ) Traditionally you put the pan in the oven while it is preheating, but we’re using it here… so it is already pretty hot… and since I’d left some vegetables in it, I didn’t want to burn them, so I didn’t get quite as crisp a crust as I might have. If you’ve chosen to remove all the vegetables, you can get it hotter… Then pour some of the batter into the pan as a base, mix the vegetables quickly into the rest, and pour it in. Put the pan in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. (If you double the recipe, check at 40 minutes…)
When it was baked, I took it from the oven, and set it to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. The bread shrinks slightly away from the pan in that time, and it becomes firmer and less likely to break up when you remove it from the pan. Then I loosened the edge with a spatula, and very carefully (remember the pan is still hot!) turned it out onto a cooling rack.
It is now in the refrigerator, broken into a few large pieces to make it easier to store (and start it drying a little.) Wednesday – or possibly Thursday morning – I will crumble it into a bowl and proceed from there.
Cornbread baked for stuffing with sausage and aromatics baked right in. An easy and traditional, and gluten free, stuffing recipe.
- 1 recipe corn muffin batter
- 2 oz sage breakfast sausage
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- Broth to moisten
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Break up sausage and saute it in a 10" cast iron or other ovenproof fry pan, until it is starting to brown.
- Add the vegetables, and saute them until just softened.
- Mix one recipe of corn muffin batter (or your preferred recipe - enough for 6 muffins)
- Stir the vegetables into the batter. Heat the pan, then pour the batter into it.
- Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.
- When ready to use, moisten with broth, and stuff your turkey or whatever else.