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Author Notes: The stuffing that will always taste the best is the one that tastes like mom’s. I was never able to eat stuffing growing up because of a gluten intolerance. Then I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner. Curious what all of the fuss was about, I decided to recreate my mom’s stuffing with polenta. My family protested loudly to this break from tradition, but alas a new tradition was born! The crusty polenta squares are not just a substitution, but a welcome improvement on an already delicious dish! This stuffing is so good, even Grandpa won’t miss the bread! —wanderash
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 1/4 cups homemade vegetable stock
- 1 1/4 cups uncooked polenta
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 cup celery, medium dice
- 1 cup white onion, medium dice
- 1 clove garlic, mince
- 3/4 cup leek, medium dice
- 1 3/4 cups Granny Smith apple, medium dice
- 1 pound spicy Italian pork sausage, casing removed
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage
- 1 healthy pinch of ground cinnamon
- To make polenta: Bring vegetable stock to boil and season with salt. Slowly add the polenta and stir constantly for about 25 minutes. When the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, it is finished. Add the parmesan, stir until it is melted and fully incorporated. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Grease a baking dish with butter and pour the polenta into the dish. Make sure the polenta is about an inch deep, and put into the fridge to cool for 2 hours. The polenta can be made and set a day ahead.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the polenta is firm, turn it out on to a cutting board and cut into 1” cubes. Grease a baking sheet with butter and transfer the polenta cubes to the baking sheet. Brush the polenta with melted butter and put in the oven until the polenta browns and begins to dry out, about 30 minutes. Check it half-way and flip polenta squares with a spatula to brown another side.
- While the polenta is browning, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan. Add the sausage and break it up with a wooden spoon. The sausage bits should be the size of the polenta squares and smaller.
- After some of the pork fat has begun to render, add the onion, celery, garlic and leeks. Stir occasionally. Season with salt.
- When all of the sausage has cooked through, about 15 minutes, add the apples, thyme, sage and cinnamon and check the seasoning. Sauté for 5 more minutes; stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.
- Combine the sausage mixture (along with all of the fat and juices from the pan) and the toasted polenta in a bowl. This can be done hours before serving.
- Put stuffing inside of the turkey, or put the stuffing in a baking dish and put back into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the sausage begins to brown.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Thanksgiving Stuffing