I’ve never really liked stuffing. Rather, maybe I’ve never understood it. Sometimes it’s a gooey, dense, faintly meat-tasting mound. At best, it’s crumbly and crispy and piping hot, with flavors of herbs and spices and the remnants of turkey parts and broth. But even this idealized version never really did it for me; it was a quaint accessory on my plate rather than a central feature.
This year, we hosted a huge Friendsgiving at our house in San Francisco, with 28 people and growlers of beer and floor-seating and lots and lots and lots of delicious food. We made people sign up on a spreadsheet in order to anticipate which food would be arriving and what we might be missing. As the night got closer, I realized that only one person had signed up to bring stuffing, and that that stuffing would likely not be edible for A) the two vegetarian attendees and B) the two gluten-free guests. So I set to work, driven by the need to please and also by a curiosity about what exactly goes in stuffing and whether I could overcome my aversion to it.
After some quick Googling, I found a delectable, veggie-heavy version that could easily be made gluten-free. What appealed to me was the way the vegetables retained their whole shapes, that the recipe relied heavily on roasting, and the ingredients drew on common autumn flavors but in slightly unusual combinations (Cherries and brussel sprouts? Apple and squash?). This vegan recipe comes from Gena Hamshaw at Food 52, with my own slight adaptations and notes:
Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Bread (GF) Stuffing with Apples
- 1 pound butternut squash, cubed
- 1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
- 1 gala apple, dicee
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 2 tbsp and 1 tbsp
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 10 slices bread of choice: crusty sourdough, dry cornbread, whole grain, or, for a gluten-free option, I used Udi’s. Prior to preparing the recipe, leave bread out for a day to become slightly dry, then cut into cubes.
- 1 1/2cup vegetable broth (plus extra as needed)
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
From Gena: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, brussels sprouts, apples, and shallots in 2 tbsp oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast till vegetables are very tender and remove from oven. Reduce oven heat to 350.
Heat other tbsp oil in a large pot. Sautee the onion and celery till translucent (about 5-8 min). Add the bread cubes and allow them to get golden brown with the veggies in the oil. (This was more challenging; my gluten-free bread started to disintegrate. I’d recommend not stirring very hard, and transferring to your roasting pan pretty quickly). Add a dash of salt and pepper.
Add the roasted vegetables, vegetable broth, cranberries, (I used cherries), pecans, and seasonings. Stir the mix till the broth has almost entirely absorbed in the toasted bread. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Serve hot.
Rather than your usual stuffing, this is more like a roasted vegetable platter with hints of sage and sweetness, with toasty bread that nods to the idea of stuffing. And maybe that’s exactly why I found it so delicious.