October 18th, 2008

A Week Late: Cornbread Stuffing With Pears And Pecans

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I made this for the VeganMofo Iron Chef challenge last week but I’m only getting around to posting it now. Not because I didn’t have time, I always think that excuse is bullshit no matter who says it, but because I am so overwhelmed with stuff that I’m forced to sit on the couch and watch 30 Rock marathons like a deer caught in headlights. But I really loved this stuffing so I am going to go ahead and tell you about it – better late than never!

I almost caved and made something sweet out of the challenge ingredients – which were pears and nuts. How badly I wanted an almond pear tart or pear and pecan muffins. But I stuck to the mysterious and unnecessary promise I made to myself of only savory dishes for the Iron Chef challenges and then there I was – stuffing!

I have to admit the stuffing I grew up on was the boxed variety that comes to life in a pot of boiling water much like one of those sponge animals that’s born in a capsule and grows before your very eyes. And I actually like that boxed stuff, that is the sad part – I have no quarrel with the taste. But it’s one of those things, like fast food french fries, that I know is a government plot to short circuit our tastebuds and beat them into culinary submission. Making my own stuffing is definitely a part of breaking free THX1138 style or whatever dystopia you choose.

Using fruit in stuffing is a time honored tradition and doesn’t make the stuffing as sweet as you might think. It adds a bit of a cidery taste and heightens the flavors of thyme and sage. Toasting the pecans intensifies the flavor and makes them pretty addictive – make a few extra just to pop into your mouth.

I stuffed my stuffing into a baked acorn squash half and that was pretty awesome, but you can just use it as a side or in any other way people use stuffing. And here’s a tip: make the cornbread into muffins so that they bake faster and cool faster so you can get dinner on the table faster.

Cornbread Stuffing With Pears And Pecans

Serves 8

1 recipe PPK cornbread or Veganomicon cornbread or your favorite recipe from a 9×13 pan

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cippolini onions, diced medium (use whatever onion you like – about 2 cups once chopped)

1 cup pecans

1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme (keep the soft stems on, just ditch the woody ones)

1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons dried sage

1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth

2 red bartlett pears, sliced in 1/4 inch slices (use whatever pear you’ve got)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut cornbread into roughly 3/4 inch pieces. Place on a baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, flipping about halfway through. Remove from oven.

In the meantime, toast the pecans. Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat. Add the pecans and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until they smell toasty and are a few shades darker. Transfer to a bowl and roughly chop once cooled – I like to keep the pieces relatively large.

In the same pan over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Add the herbs to the pan and saute for about a minutes. Add the cornbread and spinkle in salt and pepper. Mix with a spatula, it’s fine if you break the cornbread up with a spatula a bit. Drizzle in the oil and vegetable broth. If it seems to dry add a little extra veggie broth.

Fold in the apples and pecans. Transfer to a lightly greased 9×13 pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

And don’t forget to check out what everyone else came up with last week. This weeks challenge is hosted by kittee and she chose sushi, which I’m afraid I am going to miss.

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