Odds are that around any sizable holiday table, there will be at least one member of the gathering abstaining from gluten or, at best, making only a single allowance for "white" carbs (and odds are that allowance will be cashed in for mashed potatoes or dessert). The easiest way to satisfy all, without throwing off the mood of the feast: brown rice.
Conventional, bread-based stuffing often ends up an undifferentiated mass from every sensory angle. This baked dish has character, terrain features, and manages to recapture some of the texture of more traditional stuffing. A vocal side that combines features of other dressing variations, such as wild rice and oyster cornbread, this dish is without need for gravy, providing a respite from the unadulterated flavor of turkey. If unsulphured dried apricots are unavailable, unsulphured, unsweetened dried cherries may be substituted—the deeper, woodsy, caramel flavor of the naturally dried fruits is desirable in this dish.
No-Bread Brown Rice and Oyster Stuffing
1 1/2 cups short or medium grain brown rice, rinsed
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup shucked oysters; drained and chopped, liquid reserved (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices thick-cut bacon, finely diced
3 shallots, finely diced
3 large celery ribs, finely diced
3/4 cup seasonal mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup unsulphured dried apricots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small cooking pot, bring rice to a boil in the chicken stock and reserved oyster liquid. Lower to a simmer and cover. Allow rice to cook for 40 minutes, removing lid to stir the mixture a bit every 10 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, heat oil and bacon in a large saute pan. As the bacon fat begins to render, add the shallots and celery, cooking for 8-12 minutes, until translucent and very aromatic. Add oysters and mushrooms, allowing liquid released from the oysters to cook down and become re-absorbed.
Deglaze the pan with vermouth and allow the liquid to once again cook down. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in pecans, apricots, herbs, and salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Fold the cooked rice, which should be sticky and moist at this point, into the saute mixture. Transfer to a medium baking pan or casserole dish and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the desired residual moisture and crisp.
Serve warm. Serves 6-8.