Whether it’s celiac disease, dieting or just personal preference that is keeping you from eating gluten, it is a trend that has undoubtedly swept the nation. With Thanksgiving, one of the biggest foodie holidays, coming up, it’s important to understand what can and cannot be made gluten free. After all, you don’t want to offend any family members who are gluten intolerant, or sacrifice the satisfaction of a Thanksgiving meal if you’ve cut out gluten for yourself. Zachary Shea Wentzel, a cook at the prestigious I Nonni Italian Restaurant, shared advice on what to do for a gluten-free dinner on Thanksgiving. Here is what he had to offer.
Zachary Shea Wentzel
I Nonni Italian Restaurant
981 Sibley Memorial Highway
Lilydale, MN 55118
This one is actually pretty easy, don’t buy a turkey from your average supermarket. Many turkeys are deep basted or self basted to make the meat juicy, and this often consists of broth, fats, butter and/or other flavor enhancers that typically contain gluten. If you get a fresh turkey, you can baste it using the natural pan drippings from cooking the bird and you’ll be just fine. Also, and this seems fairly obvious, don’t get a pre-stuffed turkey, and don’t use any pre-packaged gravy that might come with it.
Gravy is an essential piece of Thanksgiving dinner. A good gravy can elevate dinner into Food Network territory. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to make gluten-free gravy. Usually flour-based, substitute a gluten-free flour when making your gravy. Mr. Wentzel recommended sweet rice flour. Make a roux, equal parts butter and rice flour, and let it cook on the stove until nice and golden brown. Set that aside while you heat up a nice gluten-free chicken or turkey stock to a boil. In small portions, a spoonful at a time, add the roux to the stock. Whisk like crazy, as this will be a bit stiffer than gluten gravy. At the very last moment, add salt and pepper to taste. Voila! It’s that simple.
Stuffing is another vital piece of the meal. Gluten-free bread is the obvious hurdle. Udi’s is a well-respected brand in restaurants and in homes alike. A good gluten-free chicken or turkey stock is also key, and homemade is always best. Here’s what you will need.
- 6 cups gluten-free bread, cubed
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 onion, diced
- 2 celery ribs (stalks), diced,
- 1 cup gluten-free turkey or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons parsley
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Put your bread cubes onto a baking tray and throw them in for about 20 minutes. Move them around every once and awhile so they’re evenly toasted.
Fry up the carrots, onions and celery in a little butter until they’re soft and you start to see a nice caramelization on the onions. Add your thyme, sage, salt and pepper and cook for around three minutes over medium heat. Then, add the milk and continue cooking to reduce the liquid to half the amount.
Next, mix your vegetables with bread cubes, broth and parsley in a large bowl. Put it all into a baking dish and throw it into the oven for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees F. Take it out, serve it up and see if anyone can even tell that it’s gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole
Another common item on the dinner table is the marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole. Something that as a kid seemed strange and disgusting has grown into a Thanksgiving favorite. It’s not hard to do make it gluten free.
For the topping:
- 1 cup marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon sweet rice flour
- 1/4 cup gluten-free oats (many store-bought oats are cross-contaminated with a bit of wheat, barley, or rye — be careful)
- 1/2 teaspoon. cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter (softened)
For the actual casserole:
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, chopped into cubes
- 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
Put your potatoes into a pot with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes cook until they are nice and soft. This should take about 20 minutes. Then drain the water. While the potatoes are boiling, cook up some butter until it’s golden brown, then set it aside once it has browned.
Mix your potatoes with the sugar, syrup, milk, spices, salt, vanilla extract and that butter you just browned with an electric mixer. Once everything is sticking together, increase the mixer speed and whip up the potatoes until they’re nice and smooth. Then, spread your mix into a casserole dish.
In a separate bowl, mix your almonds, sugar, oats, rice flour, spices and salt. Add the two tablespoons of butter and make sure it is softened. Combine the butter with dry ingredients until you get a nice crumble.
Top the potato mix with your newly created crumble and on top of that goes the marshmallows. Preheat the oven 375 degrees F and throw that casserole dish in for 20 minutes, or until you see those marshmallows getting nice and crispy brown on top. And there you go: gluten-free sweet potato casserole.
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.