For those who choose to or need to eat gluten-free, the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, looms ahead like a field studded with flour-packed land mines ready to explode in our digestive tracts: biscuits, buns and roux-thickened gravy, bread-based stuffing, pies, cakes, and more pies. But Thanksgiving is all about abundance, so it is hardly the meal at which you want to feel deprived.
In my family, gluten intolerance is as much part of the gene pool as dark hair and brown eyes. Added to the fact that my husband is a nutritionist, who advocates and practices Paleo and grain-free eating for health and waistline maintenance, my challenge for making an abundant and satisfying Thanksgiving is doubled. I want my Thanksgiving table to be filled with dishes that don’t scream gluten-free — just deeply flavorful and satisfying.
Luckily, the mainstay of the meal is a Brined Roast Turkey, and turkey pan gravy needs very little tweaking to be gluten- and grain-free. Substituting a little cornstarch for flour to thicken the gravy is all that it takes. The Gluten-Free Black Pepper Cornbread with leeks, bacon, and pecans is not strictly grain-free, but even Paleo diehards might give in to its gluten-free goodness without a second thought. My Not-Your-Mama's Green Bean and Crispy Onion Casserole elevates the old standby dish by miles and has zero gluten. I choose a glorious pan of Roasted Root Vegetables laced with cumin, cinnamon, orange juice, and honey over the typical yam and marshmallow bomb, to keep things light but sweetly satisfying. Rather than fuss with gluten-free flour mixes to make pies and cakes that even at their best hardly compare with their glutinous counterparts, I choose to offer my Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone Cream, which is so decadently delicious that pie, in any form, is hardly missed. And poaching the pears in cinnamon- and vanilla-laced wine makes your house smell like the holidays have indeed arrived.
Rachel Willen is a classically trained chef and the founder of FoodFixKitchen, which is both a food blog and a New York Metro Area cooking school. Visit her at FoodFixKitchen.com