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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Apricot Walnut Stuffing

DAIRY-FREE | GLUTEN-FREE VARIATION


This savory stuffing starts like most: with apple, celery, and onion sauteed in butter and seasoned with sage and thyme. But it also has a hint of tart sweetness from small bits of dried apricot, and walnuts add texture as well as healthy fat. I used sprouted whole grain bread but if you prefer a whole grain stuffing or a gluten-free version you could substitute brown and/or wild rice.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 loaf sprouted multigrain bread (Ezekiel or other)
  • 4 tablespoons grass-fed or organic butter
  • 1 large onion, about 4 cups chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • Sea salt
  • 1 medium apple, about 2 cups chopped
  • Freshly ground peppercorn
  • 1 link spicy Italian sausage (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried ground sage
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried ground thyme
  • 8 dried apricot halves, finely chopped, about 1/4 packed cup
  • 1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
  • 3 cups bone broth
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Cube the bread and bake it for an hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off the oven and allow the bread to cool inside. If you can, do this at least one day in advance to be sure that the bread is very dry and that it will soak up lots of flavor.
  2. To assemble the stuffing, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until they soften and start to brown, 30 minutes or more. Take time to do this step well and make sure to develop some color on the vegetables because it will give the finished dish much more flavor. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan before they brown, reduce the heat and/or stir in a pinch of salt. Adding salt will cause the aromatics to release moisture and stop sticking. If you don't need the salt to stop sticking, wait to add it until the vegetables have browned because it can slow down the process. 
  3. Once the onion mixture is soft, brown, and seasoned with salt, stir in the apple and the black pepper. Push the mixture toward the sides of the pan and clear a spot in the center. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing and drop small bits of it into the cleared area of pan. Cook until the sausage starts to brown, stirring only occasionally so it has time to develop some color. Don't rush this step either.
  4. Once the sausage has browned, grate the garlic into the pan. Stir in the sage, thyme, apricots, and walnuts. Cook for 1 minute more, then turn off the heat.
  5. Toss in the dried bread cubes, then pour a cup of bone broth over the mixture. Toss again, until the broth is absorbed. Pour another cup over the mixture and stir again. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir again. The stuffing should be moist and liquid should be fully absorbed. If it's too dry, add more broth. Reserve any leftover broth to add later if need be, in case it dries out while it bakes. Transfer the stuffing mixture to a 7- by 9-inch oven-proof dish or portion it into muffin cups.
  6. The baking time and temperature can be adjusted to what's already happening in your oven. In a medium oven (350°F), bake it covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes, then uncovered until brown, about another 15 minutes. In a hotter oven (425°F), bake it for 20 minutes covered, then uncovered until brown, another 10 minutes or so. In a cooler oven (300°F) the stuffing will heat through but it won't brown on top, so finish it under the broiler. If the stuffing becomes too dry, spoon some of the reserved broth over the top. Serve it hot.

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