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My father loved Thanksgiving Day. it was a day of large family gatherings, and he loved to prepare a huge Roast Turkey, or perhaps a Capon, and he made a legendary Italian Meat Stuffing! It contained sweet Italian sausage, ground beef, chopped prosciutto, chopped turkey giblets, garlic, onion, pecorino romano cheese, parsley–a highly unusual stuffing. He sometimes prepared a more traditional bread stuffing, moist with turkey stock, which he made from scratch, savory with onions, celery, parsley, mushrooms, Italian sausage, and that famous Bell’s Poultry seasoning.
Through the years, I have made many variations of Thanksgiving Day staffing or dressing, most often made with good quality bakery breads, cubed and dried in the oven, onions and leeks, celery, sage flavored sausage balls, parsley and sage, and for my special touch–diced dried apricots soaked in brandy. I have also made a traditional bread-based dressing with chopped roasted chestnuts.
I ventured into Southern cuisine territory one year and prepared a dressing made with homemade cornbread and pecans. But, there are times that my menu is such that I want a lighter dressing, not meat-heavy, and not bread-based. The following is a recipe that I tested for a Savory Rice Dressing with Fruits and Nuts, and it is very flavorful, light, and is very versatile for those who like to put their own stamp on a recipe!
Savory Rice Dressing Recipe with Fruits and Nuts
- 2 cups Royal Blend Red and Brown Rice with Barley and Rye (you can really use tour favorite rice blend)
- 5 cups stock, vegetable or turkey
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium sweet onions, chopped coarsely
- 1 large leek, cleaned, sliced
- 4 ribs of celery, diced
- 8 ounces portabella mushrooms, chopped coarsely
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 3 small sweet apples (I used honeycrisp), cored and chopped into a small dice
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pinch allspice
- 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, shopped
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- zest of 3 oranges
- juice of one orange
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a 12 inch, deep skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onions and leeks and sauté until the onions are a bit transparent and the leeks well wilted but not brown.
- Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the celery and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Add the orange juice, zest, cranberries, chopped apple, raisins, and herbs/spice.
- Cook only a few minutes until the cranberries begin to pop and the apples are a bit tender but still have some crunch.
- Set aside.
- Cook the rice according to package instructions, using the rice and stock, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice can be fluffed with a fork.
- Toss the cooked rice with the fruit, vegetable and herb mixture and add the salt and pepper and the nuts. You can keep the dressing warm in a casserole, adding a bit of hot turkey stock as need prior to serving.
This dressing has the nutty flavor of brown and red rice and walnuts, tartness of the cranberries, sweetness of apple and raisins, the savory flavors of sage, parsley and onion, the crunch of celery, and the fragrance of fresh orange juice and zest.
You can keep it strictly vegetarian by using vegetable stock. If you would like to add a meat, either cooked sage flavored sausage or chopped prosciutto work well and add a bit of salty, porky flavor, which, I find, some people crave in their dressing!
Readers, please share your favorite dressing ideas, or your experiences with this recipe by using the Comments box below! Did you use diced dried figs instead of raisins? Chopped pears instead of apples?