Thursday, November 17, 2011

Solving the Stuffing Dilemma...

One of my favorites at Thanksgiving is stuffing...carby stuff for sure, but I've done it a couple of years in a row for myself and clients the low carb way. I've included some ideas here for using lower carb breads, or to eliminate the grains alltogether.

The key is to make a stuffing that starts or combines with some low carb ‘bread crumbs’ for base texture. Toast your favorite low carb slices, then tear or cut it up into cubes, (I like King Sooper's Carb Helper or Orowheat Light 100% Whole Wheat), or make a delicious grain-free flax ‘faux-coccia’ bread that has a texture like cornbread (recipe here). Alternatively, you can do a stuffing with just roast cauliflower as a base, if you like. Add your melted butter, chicken broth, pan drippings (whatever you use to moisten your regular recipe), and season well. I like a combo of fresh and dried poultry seasoning blend, as it’s got a lot of sage, thyme, savory and other seasonings you traditionally find in bread-based stuffing, fresh herbs are lovely!

Now add a 'kitchen sink' full of good low carb stuff to fill it out. Here are some of my favorite things to 'fill out' the stuffing: sauteed mushrooms (the wilder, the better), artichoke hearts, sliced/chopped olives, hearts of palm, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, diced chayote, celery, carmelized onions or leeks, diced sautéed zucchini/cabbage/fennel/eggplant/ bell pepper, or chopped roasted cauliflower, celeriac or lc winter squash in get the idea. I sauté my vegetables first before adding for three reasons: 1) sautéing adds flavor that the veg wouldn’t have if it just ‘steambaked’ in the stuffing, 2) cooking prior releases a lot of the water from veg like mushrooms or zuke that would otherwise leech into the stuffing and could make it too mushy (although you may want to reserve and add back some more flavorful liquids from veg like wild mushrooms and onions), and 3) you want to make sure your veg is cooked thoroughly, without overcooking and drying out your stuffing.

Don’t forget you can add meat! Breakfast sausage, ham, bacon, pancetta…all make a meaty stuffing that can double as a standalone meal. Some traditional cornbread stuffing recipes with diced apple and sausage would be lovely with some shredded sautéed cabbage and flax bread…grate some white cheddar on top…yum! Cook your meats before adding to stuffing, and use the pan drippings to further moisten your mix.

Speaking of cheese, grated or shredded cheese mixed in, and/or browned on top, is one of the best ways to bind your stuffing, as is using a couple of lightly beaten eggs (one or two, depending on how much you’re using, otherwise you’ll end up with quiche).

The idea is to pick a flavor profile you like, and add accordingly. For example, Italian stuffing might have artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, sweet onions, mushroom, olives, cooked diced pancetta or Italian sausage, and fresh thyme and basil, with grated parmesan browned on top. An Asian twist would include sautéed wild mushrooms, spring onion, water chestnut, bamboo shoot, hearts of palm, bell pepper, and some soy sauce, lemongrass, ginger or a little sf terryaki in the broth mix. Traditional stuffing flavor profile would be lovely with breakfast sausage (watch for sugar), fresh poultry spices, caramelized onion, leek, celery or water chestnut for crunch, and sautéed button mushrooms and pearl onions, with a little worcestershire or sherry in the broth mix…maybe a little gruyere shredded on top. The sky’s the limit, be creative! Remember, you can try to re-create a traditional stuffing, or whip up something completely unique as a side, or main meal. Also great for leftovers, day two, add shredded leftover turkey and some of your gravy to your stuffing for the next day’s casserole.

This is really too good to save just for Thanksgiving...bake some up and freeze it for whenever!

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