Russ Crandall is the blogger behind Paleo-centric site The Domestic Man and a former Yahoo Food Blogger of the Week. Below, he proves that even those in the Paleo and gluten-free crowds can enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving stuffing.
All photos: Russ Crandall
Folks who follow the Paleo diet sometimes get the short end of the stick. When you eschew certain foods, like wheat flour, you tend to miss out on the fluffy, flaky textures associated with traditional breads. It follows that traditional Thanksgiving stuffing (or “dressing” — more on that later) is difficult to replicate.
Typical Paleo interpretations of stuffing often feature meat, nuts, and dried fruit. All those things sound just fine, but they’re not very reminiscent of the classic Thanksgiving standby. So when conceiving a grain-free, Paleo-friendly stuffing, my mind kept returning to fried potatoes — crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Luckily, there already exists a potato-based stuffing that hails from New Brunswick, Canada.
New Brunswick-style potato stuffing is characterized by two things: potatoes and a seasoning mix known as savory. Savory is popular in eastern Canada and often used to flavor poultry in the same way that we Yanks use sage. The recipe below, however, includes both savory and sage, to make everyone happy. Another tweak? New Brunswick-style stuffing typically uses bread slices in addition to the potatoes, but ignore that fact for obvious reasons.
The result is a perfect mix of crispy and fluffy textures, and expertly complements tart cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, rich gravy, and (hopefully) juicy turkey.
To get the perfect crunch, I first parboil the potatoes to remove some of their starch and soften them up. Afterward, I can blast the potatoes over high heat in duck fat to crisp them without worrying if they’re cooked on the inside. (I use duck fat because it’s delicious, but lard, coconut oil, or any other high-heat oil will work just fine.) I prepare the rest of the dish in a separate pan, then combine the two just before serving to prevent the potatoes from getting soggy.
One last note: There actually is a distinction between stuffing and dressing, although it’s mostly ignored these days. By definition, stuffing is dressing that’s cooked inside a turkey, while dressing is prepared outside. Personally, I grew up calling it “stuffing” regardless of how it’s cooked, so that’s what I’m calling it here!
Plain ol’ russet potatoes work best for this recipe, as they are fluffier than waxy potatoes when properly prepared.
New Brunswick-Style Potato Stuffing
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
¼ cup duck fat, lard, or coconut oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
8 celery stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)
½ bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon summer savory
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon rosemary
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
Rinse peeled and cubed potatoes thoroughly, then add to a stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain potatoes and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. Set aside to drain for 5 minutes, jostling the strainer a bit from time to time as the potatoes dry.
In a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and toss until coated; let sit for 4 minutes without turning, then toss and allow to brown for 4 more minutes. Toss again and add the remaining duck fat and allow to pan-fry until crispy at the edges and golden brown, another 5 to 10 minutes, gently tossing occasionally.
As the potatoes cook, prep the remaining ingredients. In a separate skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and sauté until they are softened at the edges, another 3 minutes. Add the savory seasoning mixture, toss until combined, then remove from heat.
4. Once the potatoes are crispy, stir in the celery mixture and the fresh chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed, then serve.
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