Who says stuffing has to include bread? This gluten-free recipe combines quinoa with traditional mix-ins such as onions, celery, cranberries and walnuts. But the key to achieving the crispy crust akin to bread stuffing is fried leeks. Their crunch and sweetness will appeal to every one of your Thanksgiving guests.
Recipe Notes: If you’re roasting a turkey this Thanksgiving, drizzling some of the resulting roasting liquid over the finished quinoa is a great way to give it more savory flavor. The fried leeks contribute important flavor and crunchy texture, so don’t omit. If you would like to make this dish vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. You can make this dish ahead through step 6. Fried leeks can be made ahead and stored for up to two days in an airtight container. Wait to stir in fried leeks and top quinoa with them until you’re ready to serve.
2 cups 1-inch cubes butternut squash
2½ teaspoons canola oil, divided, plus more for frying leeks
1½ cups quinoa
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1½ cups gluten-free chicken broth
½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1½ teaspoons sage, minced
2 teaspoons thyme, minced
1 large leek, root end trimmed and dark ends cut off
1. FOR QUINOA: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In medium bowl, combine squash and 1½ teaspoons canola oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer to sheet pan and spread out into one layer. Bake until squash is soft and starting to brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toast quinoa over medium-high heat in nonstick saucepan until starting to brown with a toasty smell, about 5 minutes. Transfer toasted quinoa to bowl.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium-high heat in now-empty saucepan. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in toasted quinoa and 1½ cups chicken broth. Bring to simmer. Cover and continue to simmer over medium-low heat until water is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, another 10 minutes.
5. Stir in caramelized butternut squash, cranberries, walnuts, sage and thyme. Set aside to cool while you prepare leeks.
6. FOR LEEKS: Cut leek in half lengthwise, then cut each length in half crosswise into ¼-inch-thick strips. (You should end up with about 3 cups of leek strips.) In large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 inch canola oil to 350 degrees. Toss half of leek strips in cornstarch, shaking them to let excess cornstarch fall through your fingers. Add strips to oil, making sure not to overcrowd pan. Fry, stirring with slotted spoon to avoid clumping, until leeks are crisp and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt.
7. Stir 1½ cups fried leeks into quinoa. Transfer to broiler-safe dish and broil until top is browned, about 5 minutes. Top quinoa with remaining fried leeks and serve hot or at room temperature.