“Holiday” Breadless Dressing anytime of the year!

Really good stuffing has always been a favourite of mine at Thanksgiving dinner, butwhat’s a grain-free girl to do when you can’t use bread? Forgo the stuffing?Not me!  I racked my brain, came up with some yummy idea’s and did my best to capture the flavour and texture of traditional stuffing without the bread. I’ve gotta say, I was thrilled with the results. This“stuffing” is a mix of traditional flavours like sage, onion and celery mixed with some tartness from cranberries and the nutty texture of pecans. The “bread”that holds it together is actually ground pork (I used sausage). I served this at my Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, Boxing day and again this week! It’s delicious on its own as a casserole, with a turkey or chicken or just as a side to whatever! Just a note….I guess this is technically dressing as opposed to stuffing because I didn’t stuff it in a bird. I have always preferred dressing because I don’t like soggy stuffing. If you want, this can easily be stuffed in a bird and will cook fully, it would just stay a bit wet. The directions below however are for a dressing that gets a few browned and crunchy bits, the way I like it.
 Breadless Stuffing
·        2 large onions, chopped
·        3-4 ribs of celery, diced small
·        3 leeks, finely chopped(whites only, about 2 cups)
·        2 ½ cups small diced squash (I used acorn, but any will do, pumpkin would be a nice touch!)
·        ¼ cup chicken broth
·        1 chopped apple (leave the skin on)
·        2 cups whole pecans
·        1 ¼ cup cranberries
·        2 tbsp butter (bacon fat will work just as well)
·        2/3 cup finely chopped sage
·        1 tbsp (about 4 sprigs, leaves removed)fresh thyme
·        ½ cup chopped flat parsley
·        1 lb of farmer’s garlic pork sausage(I used Brooker’s, but you can also use 1 lb of ground pork)
·        8 slices of bacon, chopped
·        1 cup ground almonds
·        Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste ( I used 1 tsp of each)
Add the onions and celery and 2 pieces of the bacon (this adds just enough fat to cook them well) to a fry pan and cook over medium heat until well softened, set aside in a large bowl. In the same fry pan, add the leeks, squash and chicken broth and cook until the squash is softened and the liquid if fully absorbed. It does not need to be cooked right through, but the squash should turn colour and be 75% cooked.
Add this to the celery mixture. Stir in apples, pecans and cranberries.
 In the same fry pan add the 2 tbsp of butter.Turn the fry pan to a low simmer just enough to melt the butter. When the butter is melted, add the sage and thyme and stir it around to coat it. Scrape this mixture into the bowl. Add the parsley to the bowl here as well.
The last few steps…squeeze the sausage out of the casing (get right in there, it’s easy, you don’t want the casing in the stuffing) into the same big bowl with everything else. (If you are using ground pork instead, add it here plus 1 or 2 cloves of chopped garlic.)  Add the chopped bacon and ground almonds as well. Now get in there and get messy – use your hands and “squish” everything together. It should hold ball like shapes, kind of like a burger.
Make sure everything is really well blended, no big chunks of pork and then pour everything into a large baking dish, I used a large lasagna pan.
Pop it in the oven at 350degrees for an hour or so. After the first half hour,bring it out and “fork it around” a little so that the liquid cooks out and different areas get browned. Do this every 10 minutes or so for the last half hour. If you find it’s still a bit “wet” after an hour, keep cooking it a bit,this is a little bit by feel and luck. Allow to cool a bit before serving. Pour some gravy on this and you’d never know there was no bread!
Somehow I managed to not take a “finished” picture of this dish! So this is a cropped pic of the table with the whole meal on it……I know the picture is terrible, but hey, it’s something! (That’s it on the far left….the bowl of brown stuff, lol!)

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