Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

I’ve written earlier that Thanksgiving tables can lay bare the most entrenched familial relations, good and bad. If not for the food, sometimes these gatherings can feel more like navigating a landmine field than a touchy-feely hugfest. Case in point: intergenerational battles over stuffing.

 A friend of mine once said that her grandfather and his least favourite son-in-law would often vie for the seat closest to the stuffing. As the table was being set, they’d poke their head into the dining room as the women were scurrying about to get everything ready, hoping to nail down the coordinates of where their favourite dish would be set. You see, with stuffing from a turkey (or any other winged beast, for that matter), there’s a finite amount – you can only cram so much in there. You can make gallons of mashed potatoes and say, broccoli casserole, but there’s only so much stuffing.

With an out-of-carcass stuffing casserole, you can make as much as you want. Some would say that the essence of a good stuffing is that it was, in fact, stuffed in something, but I disagree – I make a killer stuffing casserole, I have for years, and it tastes wonderful. Cook it low and slow with lots of flavour, and it’s the best savoury bread pudding you’ll ever taste.

A couple of notes on ingredients. First of all, I would suggest cutting up the chunks of bread a day or so before, and letting them dry out, for the simple reason that partially dehydrated bread will pull in flavour much better than fresh bread. Second, do yourself a favour and invest a good vegetarian vegetable or faux-chicken stock – McCormick’s makes a good one, or take a look at what your local health food store has in stock. On that same note, as I do for any special occasion, buy a few bunches of fresh herbs. It’s unlikely you’ll use all of it for one meal, but chop them up and stick them in the freezer.

There’s lots of common flavour pairings for stuffing out there, so I’ve given you the basic recipe here. Feel free to add some chopped dried cranberries and almonds; chopped raisins and pecans; or even mushrooms, walnuts and a bit of chopped apple. Just be sure to chop and toast the nuts – heat them over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes until they’re fragrant. Watch them closely, however – nuts can burn quickly. Check out your local artisanal bakery for different sorts of bread, too – my favourite is a crusty olive loaf made by ACE Bakery, but really any bread will work just fine.

 

Vegan Bread Stuffing

6 cups of diced, somewhat dried bread (roughly 1” cubes)

3 tbsp olive oil or good quality butter substitute (I suggest Earth Balance – very “buttery”)

1 onion, minced  (or ½ cup minced shallots)

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/2 tbsp dried rosemary, 1 1/2 tbsp fresh

1/2 tsp sage, 1 tbsp fresh

½ tbsp dried thyme, 1 ½ tbsp fresh

Small handful each of your favourite accent ingredients (see above)

½ tsp each salt and pepper

1 1/4 cup stock

1/4 cup unsweetened, unflavoured non-dairy milk

1.    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.
2.     In a large bowl, roughly mix the bread, onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper and herbs. Pour into casserole dish.
3.     In a small bowl, combine the oil (or melted “butter) with the stock and non-dairy milk. Whisk and pour over bread mixture. With your hands, mix all the ingredients together.
4.     Top the casserole with lid or foil, and bake 30 minutes. Raise the temperature of the oven to 375, remove the lid or foil, and bake until the top is browned (approximately 10-15 minutes).
5.     Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.