November 28, 2011

The Perfect (Gluten Free) Holiday Dressing

Jingle bells, light displays, snow flurries... and family get-togethers centered over smorgasbords of epic proportion.  Ah, it's the holidays... and as a gluten-avoider, this is a perfect time to get a jump-start on our New Year's Resolution diet!

This can be a rough time of year for all of us newly-minted gluten-intolerant folks - the ones who are still lamenting the loss of such conveniences as Hamburger Helper, boxed mac and cheese, and of course, Stovetop Stuffing.  Stovetop used to be a fixture in my household - I would use it for casserole bases, meatloaf, meatballs, etc...  You give me Stovetop, canned soup and ketchup, I give you twelve different main dishes that will knock the socks off of any picky eaters!  I should have bought stock in Stovetop, I'll tell ya...

For Thanksgiving this year I was craving a "real" bread dressing - not something that's cornbread or rice-based.   Something with a crispy top crust, a chewy and somewhat dense middle, and something not bogged down with tons of veggies, nuts, sausage, fruits and other fillers to make it feel like it had some substance.  I didn't want to have to bake my own GF bread, either - entirely too much trouble when I've already got the rest of the Turkey Day menu to make!   Commercially prepared GF breads were out, too -  They're fine for toasting for sandwiches, but the second that moisture hits them they usually crumble into a wet pile of sawdust - yummy, huh?  

What, then, did I decide to use for this seemingly impossible feat?   


That's right - Waffles.  Those unsung heroes of the breakfast table... those multi-tasking bread-like discs of crispy, chewy, buttery delight.  My local grocery (Giant Eagle) happened to be clearance-ing out Van's Wheat-Free Waffles, so I treated this as a Sign of the Stuffing Prophecy.

As of last week, my backyard garden was still managing to produce some sage and thyme sprigs (despite a few heavy freezes),  so I thought these were the perfect herbs to include in my stuffing recipe!  You are welcome to use any herbs you like, or dried versions of any of the herbs in the recipe.  I'm not an herb snob - if you have quality dehydrated herbs, they can still pack a solid punch of flavor if they're steeped properly.

Give this a try - I hope you'll agree that it's a hearty and authentic-tasting twist on your traditional holiday dressing recipe! If you're not a gluten-avoider, I think this recipe would still be great to make with some Eggo Waffles - just that crispy-chewy texture is enough to make most folks' hearts melt (and their cholesterol skyrocket).  Just beware of the Blueberry or Cinnamon waffles... I don't think these would quite do the recipe justice.

Gluten Free Waffle Dressing

2 boxes (12 waffles)  Van's Wheat-Free/Gluten-Free Totally Natural Waffles
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage (about 8-10 leaves)
1 teaspoon (2-3 medium sprigs) minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes)
pinch of dried savory leaves
pinch of granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup GF chicken stock

Toast the waffles to a deep golden brown (1-1/2 cycles in the toaster ought to do it nicely).  Remove these to a cooling rack and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter.  Saute the onions and celery for a few minutes or until translucent. Add the herbs, then remove from heat and stir in the stock and spices.  Allow this to cool for about 10 minutes.

While you're waiting for the stock mixture to cool, chop your toasted waffles into 1/2 inch cubes and prepare a medium casserole dish with non-stick spray or butter.

Beat the eggs into the stock mixture, then toss all of this with the cubed waffles and allow this to soak for just a minute or two.  If it feels dry, add some more stock.  You might have to use closer to 1-1/2 cups; but you'll have to decide this when you are preparing it since individual tastes and texture preferences vary.
Transfer the mixture to your prepared casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is crusty.  Serve with gravy, if desired.

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