Sunday, November 19, 2006

Vegetarian Stuffing

Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, this dish and its many variations are a classic holiday dinner side dish. Personally, I always called it stuffing, regardless of the fact that it may or may not have actually be stuffed in a bird. I don't really care for the mushy texture of the in-bird stuffings, so I tend to opt for the "on the side" variety with a crunchy, browned top.
I was working on a couple batches of stuffing for Slashfood this week and I really like the recipe that I ended up with, so I figured I'd share it here as well as there. This version uses cranberries instead of raisins and eliminates the small amunt of oil, which I found made little difference in the crispness of the final stuffing.
It's very easy to make and completely vegetarian. It is flavorful with sage and a fair amount of sweetness from the fruit. You can, of course, adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes and the type of bread you are using. I don't usually measure things as I'm adding them (and will sometimes toss in a bit of paprika or garlic just to make things different), so these are ballpark figures anyway. I like to use fresh bread, not stale, since the flavor is better and it gets just as crispy on top in the oven. I also like to use a good-qualiy store bought bread (usually from TJs or something) rather than homemade, since I tend to want to eat homemade breads and not chop them up into stuffing.
The only "odd" thing about the recipe is that I noted you should use "strong" vegetable stock/broth for the best flavor. I use a vegetarian bullion to make my veg stock, so it is easy to increase the amount for a stronger batch. Add a tbsp of soy sauce to boost the flavor if yours isn't particularly flavorful.

Vegetarian Stuffing
3/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup apple, peeled and diced
2 tsp dried or 3 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
4 cups bread cubes (white or whole grain)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
10-12 tbsp strong vegetable broth* (up to 3/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a 1.5-quart baking dish.
In a small frying pan, sautee the onion, celery and apple until tender with the parsley, sage, salt, cayenne (or regular pepper, if you prefer). This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with onion mixture, cranberries, pecans, vegetable broth, adding slightly more if the bread is very absorbant (some need more liquids), and mix well. Taste one of the cubes and, if necessary, add additional salt or pepper.
Pour into prepared casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until top is crisp and golden.
Serve immediately.

Serves 4.