Also, chinders can't have dairy or gluten, and it was important to me that she was able to eat some of everything I was bringing -- so, experimentation.
I started the stuffing by making cornbread -- basically the Joy of Cooking "Southern Cornbread" recipe -- 1.75 cups cornbread, a teaspoon each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk together, then add in a mixture of 2 eggs and 2 cups buttermilk -- with a substitution of 2 cups of almond milk and 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar to curdle it (let it sit for a few minutes) for the buttermilk. This is cooked in a cast-iron skillet; preheat the skillet and the oven to 450, then put a tablespoon of butter -- or, in this case, organic margarine-like shortening -- in the pan and pour the batter in on top of it once it starts sizzling and is browned a bit.
This came out quite well; a little drier than with buttermilk, and perhaps a tad less fluffy, but still quite tasty cornbread.
Mushroom Soup/Gravy Base:
The second prepared ingredient was a mushroom soup/gravy base. This is pretty simple -- take about a pound or so of basic white or brown mushrooms, break them up into a small pot, and add a mixture of half veggie broth and half water, enough to cover about 3/4 of the mushrooms. Add fresh herbs if desired. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until mushrooms are thoroughly cooked, then run through a blender until pureed.
The result should be about the consistency of a juicy pureed tomato sauce, and is useful for many things. As the name says, it makes good soup. Or a good pasta sauce; use less water and then add tomato sauce after pureeing it, and cook it down a bit afterwards. Or, in this case, a good gravy; I thinned about half of it with some more veggie broth and added it to a flour/butter roux.
I did two batches of stuffing -- one that was dairy/gluten-free (for Cathy), and one that was vegetarian (for Theresa).
For the common parts, I chopped and sauteed three medium/large onions, half of a large bunch of celery, and half of a small bunch of fresh sage in some olive oil, until soft and well cooked. (I did this the night before, to save time.) Also, for the non-vegetarian batch I cooked about 3/4 pound of italian sausage.
The bread for the dairy/gluten free batch was half of the cornbread, and a loaf of gluten-free "robust white" sandwich bread. I lightly toasted the sandwich bread slices and then cut them into one-inch squares, and then likewise with the cornbread (which I'd split horizontally into a couple of thinner slices). The bread for the vegetarian half was a "green onion slab" loaf from Acme Baking -- sort of a flat ciabatta-like-but-denser bread with green onions in it -- similar split horizontally and lightly toasted and then cut into squares.
To assemble these, I mixed three eggs into the onion/celery mixture and divided it in half. Then I added a can of sliced water chestnuts and about half a cup of raisins, and a cup of the mushroom soup base to the "vegetarian" half, along with about a cup of veggie broth, and tossed this with the green onion bread bits. I then added more broth and a bit more mushroom base to this until it seemed to be properly moist; the bread should be soaked through. The "dairy/gluten-free" half was assembled similarly, except with sausage in place of raisins, and chicken broth in place of the veggie broth.
These were then baked in rectangular glass baking dishes in a 350 oven for 25 minutes covered with foil, and then I removed the foil and put a bit of butter (on the vegetarian version) or margarine (on the dairy/gluten-free version) on top and baked them 20 minutes more to get a bit browned and crisp on top.
Both of them came out quite well, I thought, though I probably under-moistened the cornbread; it is quite dense and needs a fair bit more liquid than the bread needs. But that is why we have gravy.
Speaking of gravy.... I made a mushroom gravy, as described above. I also made a cornstarch-based turkey gravy. When suzanne cooked a couple of turkey thighs and legs earlier in the week, she chopped up an onion and some celery to put in the roasting pans with it, along with some rosemary and the other half of the sage bunch from the stuffing. So we ended up with almost four cups of pan drippings, which I put in a plastic tub in the fridge to settle out. Then, to make the gravy, I poured off the fat from the top -- the "broth" had gelled into aspic and the fat was still liquid (probably from olive oil in the pan), making this easy -- and put the broth in a blender with enough water from boiling the potatoes to bring it up to four cups. I then blended this to puree the onion and celery bits, and put it in a saucepan to simmer a bit and melt the aspic. (Until it had simmered a bit, it was sort of disturbingly mayonnaise-colored, but it came out fine.) I then mixed three tablespoons of cornstarch into a quarter cup of potato-water, and added that and simmered it a bit longer until thickened.
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