The Best Damn Vegetarian, Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing with Cranberry, Apple, Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts (Vegan Option)
The Best Damn Vegetarian, Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing
I've been dreaming up this stuffing for weeks. I wanted something that was gluten free and dairy free with vegan options. And, as with all of my recipes, it couldn't skimp on flavor. Mushrooms seemed the obvious choice because they're just tiny flavor bombs. Brussels sprouts are bae. Fresh cranberries add a tangy zip. Apples are always a go-to when it comes to stuffing. And cornbread lives in my Southern-lady holiday heart.
For this recipe we roast the brussels sprouts, apples and garlic together until they caramelize and even singe. Then we toss the roasted veg together with crisp-sauteed mushrooms, garlicky cornbread, cranberries and more apple slices. We layer half of the stuffing with a savory miso duxelles (more on that later). Then pour our remaining reduced vegetable stock overtop and bake it all up. In a way it reminds me of provincial French fare. With an American, fat-pants Thanksgiving twist.
Slow Food is Better Food
This stuffing is a slow food recipe. It takes a bit of a time commitment. And there are a lot of ingredients. However, it’s the best dairy free, gluten free stuffing I’ve ever had. And Thanksgiving is that one time of the year when I use extra elbow grease to make my food dreams come to life. Stuffing is often a main dish for me during the holidays. So I like it to look and taste impressive. Also I just really love when my omnivore, Southern fam gives me the seal of taste approval. This recipe wins the thumbs up on all counts.
The secret ingredient in this stuffing is that miso duxelles. A duxelles is traditionally a paste made from butter-sautéed onion, shallot, mushrooms and herbs. Sometimes you add a little bit of cream. It’s usually added to stuffings or sauces to add a strong, savory punch of flavor. I’ve made mine with shallot, celery, herbs, mushrooms, ghee and miso. Then I whirred it up with my reduced vegetable stock to pour over half of the stuffing.
French techniques can seem scary. Even the word duxelles is intimidating. But I find that this particular technique is one of the more simple, quick ways to add a whole lot of delicious to just about any dish. I added miso because that’s currently my secret savory weapon of choice. It rounds out the flavor of the duxelles with a salty-sweet-nuttiness. And it gives the stuffing a bigger, badder, rock-n-roll deliciousness.
How to Avoid a Soggy Stuffing
Cornbread stuffing is what my Thanksgiving dreams are made of, obviously. There's something about that subtle grit and natural sweetness that's wonderfully satisfying. Plus, as a wheat-free type of babe a regular stuffing made with stale bread isn't an option. As much as I would LOVE to incorporate challah, crusty sourdough, or french bread into my stuffing, that's nevah gonna happen. Even if I could get access to those things, gluten free, I'd rather eat them straight up or toasted with clarified butter. To dry out such a thing would be a shame.
The trick to getting a really hearty stuffing, regardless of the style of bread you're using, is to get that bread nice and dry. You want it stale and pretty hard. My cornbread recipe is naturally quite moist. So I go in and manually dry out cubes of it in a 300F degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Then I might go so far as to dry the cornbread out overnight after that. Totally optional, that's just how I do it. The dryer the bread, the better the bread holds its shape in your final stuffing. That's how we avoid a soggy stuffing situation. When your stuffing is done you should still be able to dig individual cubes of savory, salty, garlicky cornbread out of the mix.
- 2 cups brussels sprouts, ends removed and quartered
- 3 crisp apples, cored and sliced into thin wedges (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed quickly under a knife or your palm
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 4 cups reduced sodium or salt-free vegetable stock
- 2 dried bay leaves
- vegetable scraps, garlic, mushroom scraps for the stock
- 2 1/12 cups oyster, shiitake, or king trumpet mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons ghee, olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 cup shallot, minced
- 1 cup celery, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 3 tablespoons full fat coconut cream (skimmed from the top of a can of chilled coconut milk)
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
- 1 recipe cast iron cornbread (see below) or 1 10 inch cornbread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (about 4 cups cornbread cubes total)
- more salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
- sprigs fresh rosemary, to garnish
- apple slices, to garnish (squeeze lemon over top to prevent browning)
- Set the oven to 300F. Place the cornbread cubes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toast the cornbread for 25-35 minutes, flipping the cubes half way through. You may also choose to dry the toasted cornbread cubes overnight to get them really dry and stale (but that's optional).
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss together the brussels sprouts, 1 cup apple slices, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the mixture out on your baking sheet evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the veg is tender. You want the brussels sprouts crisp and beginning to blacken (aka caramelize). Once the veg is roasted, reduce the heat to 350F.
- While the veg is roasting, reduce your vegetable stock. Place a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the stock and bay leaves. Optionally, add any vegetable scraps / garlic / herbs you have around to add some fresh life to the stock. I use mushroom scraps, celery tops and bottoms, onion bits, garlic, and savory herbs. Reduce the stock by half. Once reduced you'll want to strain out the bay leaves and any vegetable scraps.
- Place a large cast iron pan or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook down, stirring occasionally, cooking off all of the liquid in the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have reduced significantly and are starting to brown (this might take between 10-15 minutes), add 1 tablespoon ghee, olive oil or coconut oil to the pan. Fry the mushrooms for 5 minutes or so more. You want them to be crisp and browning. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
- While the pan is still hot, add a tablespoon ghee or oil, minced shallot, celery, rosemary, and thyme. Sauté everything together stirring frequently until the mix is semi-translucent, aromatic and beginning to brown slightly (this might take 8-10 minutes). Add half the buttery shallot-celery mixture to the bowl of a high powered blender along with 1/4 cup of the fried mushrooms, coconut cream, miso, and 1 cup of the reduced vegetable stock. Blend together until smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together the dry cornbread with the roasted brussels sprouts and apples, fried mushrooms, cranberries, and reserved 1/2 cup of fresh apple slices. Add half of your dry stuffing to a cast iron skillet (or oven safe dish). Pour the mushroom duxelles (the buttery shallot-celery-mushroom-miso mix) over the stuffing. Add the rest of the stuffing to the skillet. Pour the last cup of reduced stock over the stuffing. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with rosemary and apple slices. Serve piping hot!
- 1 1/2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal (I use an heirloom Indian corn meal)
- 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse Celtic sea salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 farm fresh eggs
- 1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Place a 10" cast iron skillet in the oven to warm up while your making the batter for 10 minutes (give or take).
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking soda, sea salt and smoked paprika. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, maple syrup, minced garlic, and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.
- Remove the hot cast iron skillet from the oven. Add the 4 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil to the skillet to melt. Working quickly, pour the melted oil into the batter. Stir the oil into the batter, then pour the batter into the cast iron skillet. Bake the cornbread on the middle rack in your oven for 20-25 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be browning and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.