The Perfect Recipe For A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving
For many of us, the Thanksgiving holiday is the epitome of festive times–family fun, expressions of gratitude, and an opportunity to enjoy a bit of delicious decadence. All that love, gratitude, and tradition is expressed in the single greatest meal of the year: Thanksgiving Dinner. Our food shares the story and spirit of our family, expressing our appreciation for the previous year’s blessings.
For people diagnosed with Celiac Disease or other gluten intolerances, that carb and grain-laden spread can be tough to navigate. Since 2001, my household has prepared a gluten-free meal, including everything from appetizers, to turkey, to dessert–safely, and scrumptiously.
If you’re newly diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or are challenged with serving a holiday meal to someone who is, with just a bit of attention to detail and tweaking a few ingredients, you can still serve your favorite dishes, worry-free, from inception to presentation.
A Gluten-Safe Thanksgiving Menu:
- Stay away from any foods containing wheat, rye, barley, or oats.
- Avoid hidden gluten, including canned or packaged broths, seasoning and spice packets (including pre-ground black pepper), marinades, gravy, pie crusts, stuffing/dressing, soy sauce, malted vinegars and beers. If these expressly state that they are certified gluten-free, they are safe.
- With a gluten-free broth and turkey drippings, you can still use your favorite gravy recipe. Instead of making a roux of flour and butter, bring the ingredients to a simmer, then thicken it with a slurry of cornstarch or arrowroot and water (Start with 1T of a starch to 1T of warm water). Add the slurry to the heated ingredients. Whichever starch you use, it thickens quickly with heat. Note that if arrowroot gets too hot, it will break, never to thicken again. The benefit of using it over cornstarch is arrowroot reheats more fluidly, and it retains clearer translucence.
- You can still use your favorite dressing recipe, just substitute gluten-free bread and/or corn bread. I prefer a mix of the two, with a few chunky bits on top to give it texture.
- Substitute graham cracker or cookie crusts with gluten-free graham-like crackers (they have more flavor, anyway) or a safe cookie. Substitute them for the crumbs in your favorite crust recipe. A nice gingersnap crust works well for pumpkin pie.
- Most vegetables can be roasted or steamed as you like, just use seasonings that are gluten-free, and finish with a garnish of fresh herbs or a spritz of lemon to jazz them up.
- The turkey can be safely roasted or smoked as you prefer, using seasonings that are certified gluten-free. If you deep fry your bird, be sure to choose a safe marinade. Many of the kit ones contain ingredients that aren’t gluten-free.
- Cranberry sauce is generally safe, though making your own always wins.
- Mashed potatoes don’t inherently contain gluten. As long as they are handled carefully, they are a safe addition to the meal.
- Sweet potatoes and yams are also natively safe. Spiced with a bit of apple cider or orange juice, molasses, gluten-free spices, and the requisite marshmallows (verify that they’re safe), they are delicious.
- Items like yeast rolls take a bit more planning and effort. My favorite recipe for a light gluten free roll is Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread by Sarah Bakes Gluten-Free. Instead of shaping it as a loaf, I bake it in round molds. They are divine! A couple of tricks in getting great gluten-free bread results is let it cool completely before cutting it, and use a very sharp serrated knife that is dedicated only to gluten-free baked goods..
Gluten-Free Quinoa Salad
If you’re like me, you love your grains, despite them being a tricky component of the holiday meal. Several years ago I wanted to create a safe grain that would reflect the festiveness of the occasion, and be tasty. I came up with Holiday Quinoa Salad. At the time, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) wasn’t well-known, though now it’s readily available in retail groceries, on the aisle where rice is found. High in protein, this grain is a pantry staple, even after the holidays.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups GF broth
- 1-2 thinly chopped shallots
- 5 T olive oil
- 1 T wasabi (brown mustard works well as a replacement)
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 t Worcestershire Sauce (again, check the label)
- 1 T honey
- 1/2 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley (only the leaves)
- Half a block of feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/3 c dried, unsulfured cranberries, chopped roughly
- 1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
- S&P to taste
Follow the package directions to prepare the quinoa, substituting broth for water.
While quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. Sauté the shallot in the olive oil until lightly caramelized. They burn quickly, so don’t walk away!
In a large bowl, combine the shallots with the wasabi, balsamic vinegar, honey, and Worcestershire sauce.
Allow the cooked quinoa to cool to warm before adding the other ingredients. If you’re in a hurry, spread it on a cookie sheet and let it cool for about 15 minutes. If you add all the ingredients when the quinoa is warm, the parsley cooks and changes the flavor of the dish.
When cooled, combine the quinoa, dressing, parsley, feta, cranberries, and pine nuts. Don’t over mix it, as the quinoa will start to break down. Add S&P to taste. Work in a bit more olive oil if you prefer your salad more moist.
Add cubed roasted butternut squash, or go for a totally raw vegetable dish and add diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and kalamata olives.
With a little extra forethought and planning, you can create a fabulous gluten-free Thanksgiving meal that everyone will enjoy.