Judging from most of the American food mags I’ve been glancing at, stuffing, dressing etc. is a bit of a thing on the table of festive gatherings. There are generally no less than 17 recipes for it in any publication’s holiday issue. There are discussions of technique, pre-drying the bread, never actually stuffing it in the bird, the option of using grains instead, the classic celery-sage-onion-butter profile vs. completely new-fangled renditions (olives! fennel! dates!). It’s a flavour-y starch thing that soaks up the goodness of everything else on the plate, so I guess I can understand the passion behind it.
We’ve had Thanksgiving in Canada a month ago already, but no matter. I’m fairly grateful in a general way, so stuffing can certainly be made appropriate at a moment’s notice. I never go with a set recipe for this holiday meal fixture exactly. Like most of the things I make, it’s more of a feel-y approach. If anyone wanted to know what kind of cuisine I specialize in, that’s your answer: it’s feel-y. It’s incredibly easy to complicate the one life you have. A simple, but focused approach with food remains as a bastion of calm in mine.
Here’s two things I keep in mind throughout this decidedly felt cooking adventure: the bread should be really good (actually a defining characteristic of all of the bread in your life) and fat should be applied with abandon (arguably less appropriate at times throughout your life). That’s it, that’s all.
I went a cornbread route on this version. I had never done that before, but my love of this sweet-savoury treat has always been pretty serious. I was dreaming of its slight grittiness made crisp, paired up with smoky-spicy chipotles, sweet potatoes, garlic and some kind of greens. The chard in the garden continues to be prolific, staring me down from its thick rows every time I look out back. The earth is still soft and those perfectly emerald green and crinkly leaves, with their defining salty bite, just grow taller. Put the little seed down in springtime and the land gives in the most utter sense; with no expectation of what is owed after all this time. A recognition of a love that intense that can just exist in the world makes my eyes go wide. Stating the obvious: I’m thankful for that. Big time.
sweet potato, chipotle + chard cornbread stuffing
notes: I add some of the cooked chard towards the end of the baking process so that I still get some pretty green bits all through. Also, if cornbread isn’t readily available to you, Bryant Terry’s recipe is one of my favourites (link).
7-8 cups cubed cornbread
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp grapeseed oil, divided (+ extra for greasing/drizzling)
6 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 cooking onion, small dice
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 stalks of chard, leaves roughly chopped
1 small sweet potato, peeled, small dice
1-1.5 cups vegetable stock
1 chipotle pepper in adobo + extra adobo sauce (use as much or as little as you want)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 X 11 baking dish, line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Toss the cubed cornbread with 2 tablespoons of the oil, a pinch of the minced thyme, salt and pepper to coat. Place cubes on the parchment lined baking sheet and push into the oven. Bake until bread is golden brown and dried out a bit, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and dump croutons into a large bowl.
Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onions, celery and remaining chopped thyme. Stir constantly until onions are soft and ever-so-slightly browning, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Start adding the chard. Stir the greens around with the other veg until they begin to wilt a tiny bit and turn bright green. Remove from the heat and scrape into the bowl with the bread cubes, reserving some of the chard for a later addition if you like.
In the same saucepan, place the diced sweet potatoes, chipotle + adobo and vegetable stock over medium heat. The stock should cover the sweet potato dices by an inch. Bring to a boil and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mash the sweet potatoes up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher so that you have various sized pieces.
Pour the sweet potato mashy-chunky bits and stock over the cornbread, greens and other vegetables. Stir gently to combine. Spread the whole mixture into the greased 8 x 11 baking dish. Drizzle a bit of oil over the top if you like. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. If you’ve reserved some of the chard, scatter it over the top with about 10 minutes left of baking.