Charlie and I have been in a holiday stalemate since we started dating. One that will for the first time be broken next week.
This is the first year we’ll spend Thanksgiving together down at his family’s house in South Carolina. And it’s only the second time in history that I won’t be gathering around the Lapine family table. I’d say it’s a compromise, but Charlie has also made it clear that he will return this favor never.
Charlie is as attached to his family traditions as I am mine, and sadly the jews in Connecticut may never be able to replicate some of these cultural differences. It’s true that our pre-dinner activities do not involve duck hunting. Our turkey usually isn’t shot on the property. And our family punch does not include sweet tea, though the main drink of choice in both families is Jack Daniels.
The main thing that I will miss is the stuffing. Every year, this is my task. And though the bread became a gluten-free loaf five years ago, it only meant I took my job of making it delicious that much more seriously.
To preserve some of my traditions, and to lift everyone’s spirits after a very heavy week, I decided to have a little Friendsgiving dinner party this weekend. Instead of turkey, which I don’t really care for unless my cousin has smoked it in the backyard for 12 hours, I did a lemon-herb version of this magic faux-tisserie chicken with chopped rosemary, thyme and garlic stuffed under the skin. This kale and roasted butternut squash salad was our side. And the carby piece-de-resistance was this gluten-free stuffing recipe.
My healthy creamed spinach has been one of the go-to recipes on this site for years, and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of combining it with other dishes (mainly, this mac and cheese). Last year, I came up with the idea to fold it into my annual stuffing. The béchamel, which is made from a combination of AP gluten-free or white rice flour and almond milk, becomes the glue for the bread without having to use eggs (holler to my vegan homies!).
It turned out absolutely delicious, especially with the caramelized leeks and shallot at the base. If you want to get even more creative, I would recommend sautéing up some mushrooms as well, and even adding dried cranberries for a little pop of sweetness.
If anything was clearer than ever after my dinner, it’s that food—and Cards Against Humanity—holds tremendous power to nourish us during troubling, stressful times.
So I it feels right that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Not only could we all probably use a big slab of pumpkin pie to stick to our ribs, but also a big dose of gratitude to help insulate the hearts beneath them. This year more than ever I hope that you have some delicious holiday dishes to feed your loved ones, so that’s what I’m going to focus on this week (gluten-free gravy on deck!).
And in the spirit of spreading both food and love beyond your own home, I hope you’ll join me in donating a chunk of change, however small, to Feeding America. Every little bit counts, and it’s a small step towards coming back together around a much bigger table.
I’m glad I was able to get my fill of gluten-free stuffing and inappropriate humor (tasteful side boob et al), before spending the holiday with my new extended family. I’ll report back on whether all the wild turkey (bird and whiskey) made the trip worth it.
Happy holidays my healthy hedonists!
Gluten-Free Stuffing with “Creamed Spinach” and Leeks (Vegan)
- One 18-ounce loaf of gluten-free bread, I used Canyon Bake House Mountain White, white or whole grain , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 large shallots, sliced
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons AP gluten-free flour or white rice flour
- 2 cups almond milk or vegetable broth
- 10 ounces spinach leaves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
On two parchment-lined baking sheets, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Bake until the bread is lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallots and leeks until soft and beginning to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for another minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to coat. Cook for a minute, then whisk in the milk, half a cup at a time.
Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and carefully fold in until wilted. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Fold in the toasted bread and arrange in an even layer in the oven-proof skillet or transfer to a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Bake the stuffing for 20 minutes, or until the top is browned.