Monday, November 22, 2010
Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing
"Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight...they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!"
This Thursday is, of all the good days in the year, Thanksgiving here in the US. That being the case (and since I'm hosting/cooking), this week's MoFo posts will be largely devoted to dishes that appear on my family's holiday table, year after year. Thanksgiving, as we all know, is a day set aside for the ostensible purpose of expressing our gratitude for the bountiful good fortune with which we have been blessed; this generally translates to the consumption of an enormous meal in the company of family and friends. Of course, it is also associated with genocide and/or cultural imperialism - to say nothing of the systematic slaughter of millions of turkeys, who have very little for which to be thankful - but since my theme is supposed to be traditional foodstuffs, let's just get this party started with a giant pan of baked carbohydrates, shall we?
As the reader is certainly aware, the "it" in the quote above refers not to a Thanksgiving turkey, but to a Christmas goose - which Dickens describes as "the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon," and "the theme of universal admiration" in the Cratchit household - but both are traditionally accompanied by sage and onion stuffing, which gets a fair bit of attention in the text. This is as it should be, since my own favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner was always the stuffing (in our family, Christmas meant roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and horseradish, which is another subject for another post); if left to my own devices, I'd have happily made a meal of it, optimally surrounded by a lake of gravy.
My mother's rendition was a very traditional, old-school recipe, and was always baked separately, since my restaurateur father considered cooking it inside in the bird to be unhygienic (it's also greasy and disgusting). As an adult, I've stuck with essentially the same method; I just substitute margarine for butter, and vegetable broth for the chicken stock my mom would have used. Suffice to say that if you're looking for something sophisticated or adventurous to spice up your Thanksgiving table, this is probably not the recipe for you, but "eked out" by mushroom gravy, this bread stuffing remains one of the tastes of my childhood, and I can still make a meal of it!
Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing
~ One large loaf good bread, lightly toasted and crumbled (a baguette is nice)
~ 3 tbsp. olive oil
~ 3 tbsp. Earth Balance
~ One ginormous onion (or two normal-sized), chopped
~ 4-5 stalks celery, diced fine
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, rosemary
~ Pinch of mace or nutmeg
~ Lots of freshly ground black pepper
~ About 3 cups vegan "chicken" broth; more or less as needed (I swear by Better Than Bouillon)
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the oil and margarine and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until turning golden, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the celery, garlic, and seasonings, and cook 5 minutes more, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
~ Stir in the toasted, crumbled bread and mix thoroughly, then add as much of the vegetable broth as you need to get a moist stuffing consistency (you might not need it all, but do bear in mind that it will dry out as it bakes, so it should look a bit mushier than you might imagine it ought to do).
~ Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
~ Raise the heat to 400, remove the foil, baste the top with a little extra broth, and cook another 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden and crispy. Serve hot with all the usual trimmings (gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potato, Tiny Tim, etc.).