We’re coming up on the holiday season, and all our family usually tries to gather here at the ranch for Thanksgiving. We have several vegetarians and quasi-vegetarians in our group, which makes holiday meals a challenge. Also there are those among us who are cutting down on gluten, carbs or are on whatever is the diet-du-jour.
Short of going to one of the local buffets, where everyone can choose his or her entrees and sides, we try — at home — to have as many varied dishes as possible.
The turkey, of course, for those who are traditional, and perhaps some turkey flavored tofu (such as “tofurkey”).
And lots of “sides:” gravy and cranberry and chutney relishes certainly, a substantial vegetarian dish or two — stuffed mushrooms, a winter squash dish, or maybe ravioli with peas and almonds. A large salad with lots of fancy toppings — candied pecans, craisins, crumbled bleu, feta or goat cheeses.
Also sometimes a plate of sliced long keeper tomatoes — picked green at the end of the growing season from our garden and kept for special occasions. We’ll also do two “stuffings” — one vegetarian, one not.
Stuffing or dressing? It just depends on where you cook it. Technically, inside the bird is a “stuffing;” outside the bird, basically the same mix would be called a “dressing.”
Both of our dressings will start with the same bread — which is our recipe for today — made several weeks ahead and frozen. The veggie dressing has an abundance of mushrooms, celery, leeks, and sometimes apples and nuts, with a little bread and an egg to hold it all together.
In comparison, the more traditional dressing has cooked sausage, plus some celery and onion and quite a bit of our stuffing bread from today’s recipe. Both can be moistened with stock, white wine, port or marsala.
ONION-HERB STUFFING BREAD
This yeast bread recipe makes two standard loaves, and takes about three hours, start to finish, much of it unattended.
To use for stuffing, slice cooled bread in about 1-inch slices, and then into cubes. Air dry until the consistency of day-old bread. To eat out of hand, just slice and serve — it’s delicious this way, too.
This bread takes a while to do, but it can be made ahead, and it’s well worth the effort.
Roughly chop, lightly caramelize (brown slowly) in 1/4 cup canola oil, and set aside
3 medium onions
Prepare fresh herbs and set aside
3 tablespoons snipped chives
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage (culinary, not sagebrush)
1 teaspoon each of rosemary, marjoram, thyme (1/2 each if dried herbs)
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen-Aid) fitted with a paddle, put — and allow to soften for a few minutes:
1 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 packages regular dry yeast
When the yeast is softened, mix on slow for about 3-4 minutes. Then add, 1 cup at a time:
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups white bread flour
1/4 cup canola oil
Mix well. Then add the onions and herbs and mix just until blended.
Turn out on a floured board, and knead in 1/2 to 1 cup more bread flour, enough to make a nice medium soft dough ball. Set in a well oiled bowl; cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.
Remove from bowl, knead lightly and form in to two loaves. Place in greased bread pans and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until toasty brown on top, and sounds hollow when tapped.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.