I cried during Thanksgiving dinner. Those who know me well will not find this terribly unusual. I really feel all my feelings. But this year, I cried over stuffing, and not because it was bad. I cried because it was so, so good! And also because when I went gluten free in 2013 I thought my days of eating stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner were over. I hadn't eaten stuffing in nearly a decade. To be truthful, rarely do Brian and I make a traditional meal at Thanksgiving. We've eaten paella, various roasts, and last year we enjoyed a butternut squash lasagna. The lasagna was so rich we are still recovering from it! The stuffing I made for Thanksgiving was not made from gluten free bread because frankly so much of gluten free bread resembles styrofoam peanuts that have been pulverized and are being held together by air only to crumble when you take a bite. Here we have a benefit of moving to the South: cornbread! Many cornbread recipes call for a combination of cornmeal and wheat flour. Traditionally, though, cornbread was made with just cornmeal. And we happen to have locally milled cornmeal. This stuffing requires you to make traditional cornbread one day and then the stuffing the next day. It's worth it, and honestly, it's pretty easy. The most difficult part is planning your time.
NOTE: Bake the cornbread the day before you plan to make the stuffing.
Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup high quality grapeseed or canola oil
1 8-inch square pan of baked cornbread (using above recipe)
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, not sweet, peeled and chopped
5 stalks of celery, with leaves on if you can find it this way, chopped
1 4-ounce package of diced pancetta, optional
2 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
4-5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon (or more) dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) freshly ground black pepper
2 cups unsalted chicken broth (bonus points for you if it's homemade)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3-1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 cup toasted pecan pieces, optional
- Make the cornbread. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl or wide-mouth pitcher, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well combined. Pour into the greased baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until it is golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool in the pan. Cover and let sit overnight.
- Make the stuffing. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Grease a 9x13 baking pan. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl it around. Add the onions, celery, and, if using it, the pancetta. Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring often. Once the vegetables have softened, add the thyme, sage, salt and black pepper. Cook for another two minutes. Turn off the heat and let the vegetables cool a bit.
- While the vegetables are cooling, crumble the cornbread into a large bowl. Stir in the stock, eggs, parsley, and, if using them, the pecans. Place the stuffing into your greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 30-33 minutes, until it's light golden brown on top and starting to brown around the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.