|Image via Flickr by Dani and Rob|
Some things are just supposed to taste the way Mom made them.
To me, turkey stuffing should be made from cubes of bread, Italian sausage, celery and whatever seasonings Mom always put in hers.
But our first kid has a wheat allergy, so what's a dad to do? Substitute gluten-free bread? Without a gluten structure, the bread would probably reverse-engineer into some kind of rice pudding goo.
Not in our turkey.
So (sorry Mom) I had to scrap that idea and start from scratch. Why not use a hearty brown rice as a base for stuffing?
And what goes great stuffed in, wrapped around or just plain next to everything? Bacon.
I don't have pictures or video for you right now because I won't be making this until the day before Thanksgiving, but I'll give you the playbook.
1 - In a big sauté pan, add lots of chopped bacon. Of course you cannot make too much. Extra bacon will find its way into the potatoes, vegetables, salad or just into your face. Turn on the heat and render the bacon until crisp.
2 - Remove most of the bacon from the pan and drain off the bacon fat. Leave enough fat in the pan to coat it and leave a cup or so of bacon pieces. Meanwhile, boil some water in an electric kettle.
3 - Add some chopped onion to the hot bacon pan and let that sizzle for a few minutes before adding chopped garlic. Give the garlic a minute or so.
4 - I forget how much rice will fill an average turkey, but again, too much is not a problem. Cooked a second time inside a turkey or not, this stuff is good. Add three or four cups of brown rice to your hot bacon pan. Stir it around to toast and pick up flavor from the pan. Add two cups of boiling water per cup of rice.
5 - Turn the heat down to low. Add some black pepper and whatever herbs you have, fresh or dried. The bacon may have put enough salt into the environment, so don't add any until you've tasted the finished rice. Let this simmer until almost done. Don't overcook the rice. It's still going to spend some time in a hot turkey, so stop when it still has some bite.
6 - Taste it and add some salt or other seasonings as you like it. Pungent is good here because it will flavor the turkey from the inside. I cook this a day ahead and keep it in the fridge.
7 - When it's turkey time, heat up the stuffing in the microwave if you cooked it ahead of time. It's important to add the stuffing hot. Since you're stuffing it inside a raw turkey, it needs to hit 165ºF to be safe to eat. At the center of the bird, this will take the longest time to hit that temperature. The surrounding poultry will be overcooked by then. So add the stuffing while steaming hot.
Necessity is a mother of an invention. I made this recipe because I had too. Now several Thanksgivings later, this is what turkey stuffing is supposed to taste like around our house.
It's (almost) as good as Mom's.