Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Very Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

The last-minute hunt is on for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving dinner!  Our plans are still a little up in the air for Turkey Day itself, and if plans do happen then we'll have our meal on Sunday instead of tomorrow.  The problem is that Thanksgiving is a minefield of gluteny traditions.

The first and least obvious hurdle is the turkey itself.  Of course turkeys don't normally contain gluten, but manufacturers quite commonly baste, inject, fill and marinate their meat for sale.  This accomplishes a few things for them: it adds weight to products sold by the pound, and they're hoping that they can trick cooks into thinking their product just naturally cooks up all juicy and flavorful.  Unfortunately, they almost never reveal the ingredients of their "secret sauce" injections on the packaging, nor do they list allergens. 

Butterball's website says they're moving away from gluten ingredients in their turkies and gravy packets, but you have to call their customer service hotline with a lot number to verify that the turkey you're buying is a safe one.  My local butcher shop sells plain turkeys, but they're enormous and we have limited freezer space.  Ideally I wanted to buy just a turkey breast to roast, since I'm not a fan of dark meat anyway.  I found what I was looking for on the Honeysuckle White website, where they list their bone-in fresh or frozen turkey breast as gluten-free.  Their whole turkeys, however, are NOT labeled gluten-free (probably because of a gravy packet).  I also know that the local big box stores carry them, which means they're perfect for last-minute plans. 

The next hurdle is the stuffing.  I had originally planned to make the cornbread stuffing recipe from the last "Better Homes and Gardens" (don't ask, the connards cancelled "Ready-Made" and sold my subscription to BHG).  It seemed ideal because the corn bread recipe they used didn't include wheat flour.  Luckily I made a test batch and found out that it comes out eggy tasting and dry.  I ended up tossing the whole batch (and the recipe). 

Then I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning and heard a piece with Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen.   He gave a fantastic sounding recipe for turkey stuffing made from corn flakes.  It sounds pretty flakey (bah dum dum *ting*) but it's Chris Kimball.  I can't believe he would offer up his reputation on a less than fabulous recipe.  So I'm going to take a leap of faith, grab some gluten-free cornflakes, and give it a whirl.  The recipe and other delicious-sounding goodness from the piece can be found at the NPR website.  It includes a honey-herb brie appetizer and a pumpkin spice cheesecake that would be gluten-free without the crust.  You could find a gluten-free graham cracker to substitute for the crust, but I haven't found one yet that didn't taste awful.  He also gives some tips on how to flavor the turkey with fresh herbs.

Mashed potatoes are easy; I would just use leftover chicken broth and herbs from the other recipes.  For cranberry sauce, I have a particular nostalgic fondness for the Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce, complete with little jellied can ridges molded into the cylindrical lump, carved into slices.  I think it's all about what you grew up with.  The fancy homemades just don't hit the craving the same way.  Luckily, Ocean Spray's website says that all their sauces and juices are gluten-free.


bexkee said...

Possibly not a helpful comment regarding the gluten free ness. BUT I saw a helpful housewives hint in a magazine today. If your fridge is too small to accommodate a turkey of huge proportions. Put it in a chilly bin to keep it cool or if it's frozen to defrost a cpl of days before it's required. We call them chilly bins here in NZ-I don't know what you Americans call them. : )

Meowser said...

I have found that Paula Deen's cornbread dressing/stuffing recipe adapts very well to being GF. Just use GF cornbread, GF bread, and plain GF crackers like Glutino (or GF breadcrumbs -- I have plenty of those from failed bread experiments). At baseline, it's a pretty wet stuffing, but you can adjust the moisture content to your personal taste, even adjust the veggies (I'm not a big fan of celery and onions; I use chestnuts and the green parts of scallions). But I'm interested to know how the cornflake stuffing turns out!

JeanC said...

How did the GF stuffing turn out? I made cornbread stuffing for my bird and it was okay (flavor good, texture was crumbly, which I expected as cornbread does crumble in applications like that) but just not as satisfying as the fresh bread stuffing I used to make.

For a substitute for the graham crackers there is a brand of ginger snaps and cinnamon snaps that is to die for that makes a good sub. Can't remember the name off hand, will try and look and let you know.

The only cranberry sauce allowed in my house is the canned stuff, no ridges, no going on my table LOL!