Stuffing was never my favorite dish at Thanksgiving, but it just might be this year. I created the recipe here yesterday, for this blog and for our second gluten-free Thanksgiving, and Steve and I can’t stop eating it. We enjoyed it for lunch and dinner Saturday, and then again for breakfast this morning.
The stuffing starts with my herbed cornbread, and is loaded with smoky chicken Andouille sausage, bright red bell peppers, and spiced pecans. It has lots of celery too, and for me, that unassuming ingredient is always key to a great stuffing because its fresh flavor and crunchiness balance the richness of the bread and sausage.
Marjoram, which may be the most underappreciated herb, lends its allusive sweet fragrance to the stuffing. I love marjoram, and grow a couple of big pots of it to use in dishes that feature corn, tomatoes, beans, or lamb. Marjoram is in the mint family, and a relative of oregano, but more delicate than oregano and mellower than mint, and just right for this recipe.
It is easy to fit the preparation of this stuffing into the whirl of holiday cooking. Bake the bread as early as Sunday (tonight). The recipe makes enough to serve a few warm pieces for dinner, with plenty left for the stuffing. Once the bread has cooled, cover the pan with foil and let it stand at cool room temperature for up to 3 days. Then toast it on Wednesday. The sausage, vegetables, and pecans can also be cooked on Wednesday. Then simply mix everything together shortly before baking the stuffing.
One reason Steve and I have been able to eat so much of this dish is that I use olive oil, and only 3 tablespoons, rather than heaps of butter (only 1½ tablespoons for the pecans). The stuffing tastes plenty rich enough, but isn’t so opulent you can’t enjoy it for several meals (that is, if there is any leftover).
Cornbread Stuffing (gluten free) with Andouille, Red Bell Peppers, and Pecans
- 8 cups ¾-inch cubes Herbed Cornbread, gluten free
- 1½ tablespoons butter
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups pecan pieces
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces gluten-free fully cooked chicken or pork Andouille sausage, 3 links, cut lengthwise into quarters, and then cut crosswise into ½-inch wide pieces
- 1½ cups ½-inch cubes celery
- 1 medium onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- 2 cups gluten-free low-salt chicken broth
- 1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the cornbread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until dry and beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Cool.
- Meanwhile, butter a small rimmed baking sheet. Melt 1½ tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the cayenne and then the pecans, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to coat the nuts. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the pecans begin to brown, about 6 minutes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and sauté until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a large bowl, leaving any drippings in the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, celery, onion, and bell pepper. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and sauté until the onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add to the bowl with the sausage. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store the bread and pecans airtight at room temperature. Cover the sausage-vegetable mixture and refrigerate. Bring the sausage-vegetable mixture to room temperature before continuing.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush olive oil over a 2-quart casserole or 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add the cornbread cubes, pecans, marjoram, and some freshly ground black pepper to the vegetable-sausage mixture and toss gently to combine. Whisk the broth and egg together in a small bowl. Add to the cornbread mixture and mix gently. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Bake uncovered until crisp and brown on top about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.