Saturday, 13 October 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey-- the stuffing

Thanksgiving Turkey –the stuffing

Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend, and it was a bit of a challenge for me this year, what with the new vegan lifestyle.  But could I inflict that on the family?  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. 
For past major holidays, I’ve tricked the various family members with such meals as Don’t Worry, It’s Not Curry, and the unspoken Curried Easter, but this time, I thought since I wasn’t going to be eating the turkey, why bother with the Indian spices? 

Since the family wants traditional Western Canadian food, that’s what they got, but I used  Indian methods.  I’d always wondered how that might taste, and got my response.  Our Janet said it was so delicious she wanted to eat till she exploded, and I took that as a pretty good compliment. 

Stuffing for the turkey
Alberta Masala!
2 tablespoons ghee (probably more)
1 short sprig Rosemary, leaves pulled off
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
½ teaspoon dried sage
10 to 15 grates of fresh black pepper

1 red onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 cup fresh raw cranberries, roughly chopped
3 cups diced stale wholewheat bread
½ cup oatmeal
½ cup pinenuts

Be sure to caramelise the onions and mushrooms.
In a very large frying pan, heat the ghee to medium hot.  Add the herbs and let them sizzle.  (This is the method I’ve been dreaming up for years, and finally tried.)  Immediately add the onion, and lower the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring carefully, till the onions begin to caramelise.  Add the mushrooms and possibly more ghee and cook the mushrooms till they’re beautiful and golden.  You must get them caramelised a bit!  Then add the celery and cranberries, and maybe more ghee, cooking till the celery begins to soften.  If the pan is looking dry, you need the additional ghee, otherwise think of your arteries.  
I don’t normally use celery, ever, but this recipe is the only exception.  My mother used to serve boiled celery as a vegetable, which she somehow believed was a Chinese thing to do.  I have never recovered from that.

Toasted oats --another Indian tip!
Anyway, once the celery is somewhat soft, pour these ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.  Turn the heat back on to medium high, and deglaze the pan with the diced bread, stirring to make sure the bread becomes toasted on most sides, and it absorbs the flavours in the pan.
(Throughout the summer I collect bits of bread and keep them in the freezer for this purpose.  My collection included rolls, flatbread, tortillas and sandwich loaf, but all of it whole wheat, and much of it was multi-grain.)  I learned to toast the cubed bits of bread from husband person, who learned it from his mother. When the bread is golden on some surfaces, add that to the bowl of other ingredients.
I stood by, with paper towels and clean hands!
Pour the raw oatmeal into the same frying pan, and gently toast that a few minutes till it’s golden.  Add that to the big bowl, along with the pine nuts.  You’ll see that I don’t add salt, as I clean the turkey with salt, and it never gets thoroughly rinsed away, despite much effort. 

I use my hands to mix the stuffing, and since hands are needed to actually stuff the bird, I ask husband person to do the salt washing of the bird (it takes four hands, one to scrub and hold the turkey, and one to pour on the coarse salt and operate the taps).  After drying the turkey inside and out with many paper towels, he brings it to the counter top where I stuff the major cavity, and I put as much as I can into the smaller cavity.  Leftover stuffing that won’t fit goes into a casserole dish to go into the oven later.
My own parents strongly believed you had to add a can of mushroom soup to the stuffing, believing it would be dry without such a factory made addition, but I can assure you, the stuffing will absorb the juices from the turkey, and it will be gorgeous.  Some cautious types have taken to putting all the ‘stuffing’ into a casserole and not into the turkey, but I think that contradicts the name of the dish.  If you do use that method, you’ll need to keep adding juices from the turkey to the casserole dish, or it will dry out, quite badly! 

Once the turkey is cooked, and has set for at least 20 minutes to cool slightly, remove all the stuffing and place into a beautiful dish.  Serve the stuffing with the turkey, of course, along with lashings of gravy on top.  Sigh, I had none of this, but was informed it was magnificent. 

Next up I’ll describe the non-stuffing, the Vegan main dish I made for myself that family members mistook for stuffing.  

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