TASTEFOOD: Confessions from a turkey stuffing-phobe

Wild Rice With Dried Fruit and Pecans (Photo by Lynda Balslev for TasteFood)

I won’t beat around the bush: I am not a fan of turkey stuffing (or dressing), and neither is my family. Whenever I make stuffing, it sits uneaten at the Thanksgiving table before it’s banished to the refrigerator and labeled “leftovers.” There, it sits for days — forlorn, neglected and, frankly, wasteful.

So, now I no longer make bread stuffing for our turkey. Instead, I jam bunches of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme and sage, as well as wedges of lemon or orange in the turkey cavity to provide aroma and helpful moisture while the turkey roasts. For serving, I provide potatoes and a grain dish to balance and fill out the feast.

This rice salad is always a hit. It’s a great gluten-free starch substitute for bread stuffing, and the dried fruit and nuts stud the rice like festive jewelry, providing a pretty addition to the holiday table. Feel free to mix up the fruit and nuts, substituting raisins, chopped prunes, dried figs, walnuts or hazelnuts. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock.

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Wild Rice With Dried Fruit and Pecans

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 cups wild rice or wild rice blend

3 1/4 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add the onion and carrot and saute until they begin to soften without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then add the rice and stir to coat.

Pour in the chicken stock and add the thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes (or according to the rice package instructions).

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the apricots, cranberries and pecans and fluff the rice with a fork. Let stand, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.