The following recipe might perhaps serve as a warning, rather than a suggestion.
As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to make a low carb stuffing, and had planned to use low carb bread as a substitute for regular bread. Then it came to me: pork rinds! They would make a wonderful bread substitute.
I thought this truly original – then I did a search on ‘pork rind stuffing’ and found a recipe straight away – so much for my originality. Anyway, the recipe said it looked and tasted just like the real thing. I at least felt validated, and decided that this would be my big Thanksgiving experiment.
I wasn’t going to burden my family with the results of my experiment, so I had a box of the Stove Top Stuffing for the rest of the crew.
I decided to roughly follow a recipe I’ve made for the kids with leftover bread – substituting the pork rinds – here it is:
- 2 bags unflavored pork rinds
- 2 small yellow squash
- 2 onions
- 2 eggs
- 3 stalks of celery
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- olive oil
The recipe recommended the spices sage and thyme, and I figured I would try that as well.
I first cooked the chopped veggies in oil and butter (I had once heard that the mixture of oil and butter allows the temperature to go higher without ‘damaging’ the oil – which sounds all clever and scientific, but I really don’t know what I’m talking about.) Once cooked, I threw in the 2 bags of pork rinds that I crushed by pounding on the bags. This entire performance raised a few eyebrows in the kitchen – what the HELL is he making? – but my family has learned that this is just one of Dad’s many ‘peculiarities’.
The pork rinds softened in the fragrant veggie medley, and I gave them a stir, seasoned with pepper and sage, looked for the thyme but there was none (drat!), and decided to hold off on the salt until I could give it a taste, as the pork rinds are already salty.
The recipe I found had put beaten eggs in their recipe. I thought: why the hell not? I poured in two and mixed.
A few minutes and it was really beginning to look like stuffing, but it didn’t smell like stuffing.
I began to get worried.
I tasted a small spoonful. It didn’t taste like stuffing at all – it tasted like, like…soggy crushed pork rinds in vegetables!
This was going to require some serious doctoring.
About that time my wife came over, looked and smelled the pot.
“You’re going to have regular stuffing, right?”
“Are you going to eat that?” She asked.
“Yeah – even if I have to choke it down over the next couple of days.”
“Or you’ll leave it in the fridge until it goes bad.”
“Nah – I’ll eat it.”
There was no going back now – I had to make it edible. I was challenged by my wife in her prediction that it would get thrown out – and I told her it wouldn’t, so it was a matter of my pride, my integrity, to make this pot full of fake stuffing semi-palatable instead of a menu item from the ‘Fear Factor’ reality show.
I remembered an old Martin Mull song – ‘Bun-and-Run’ – a spoof on bad fast food (Go here for a 30-second excerpt of the song, if you are so inclined). It was a jingle for an imaginary burger joint and one line in it was my inspiration for what came next:
Pour on the spice and it starts to taste nice.
I hit the spice drawer, but didn’t really know what to throw in. I am a moron when it comes to spices. I had put sage in there, so what goes with sage? I thought about the old Simon and Garfunkel song, and put in some rosemary – didn’t have any parsley.
It didn’t seem like the rosemary by itself was the secret ingredient to revive this dish, so I put in more butter. Why? It was nearby, I suppose, and I like butter. I also put in more pepper and some salt – the pork rinds themselves did not salt up the dish too much.
A few more minutes and another taste…bleech! I reached into the spice drawer and took out some Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute – some mixture of seasonings that ain’t that bad – but I had no idea if it would save this dish – or push it over the edge.
We were going to find out.
I put a lot of this stuff in there – maybe 2 tablespoonfuls. I mixed this, let it cook a few more minutes and took another taste – I couldn’t tell the difference. It was like my taste buds were numb. As a last-ditch effort, I threw a handful of fresh cranberries in it (I don’t know what I was thinking there), and decided to throw it in the oven – perhaps I would forget it’s there, it would burn to a crisp, and I could forget about it.
So it got about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and the top was browned, but not burnt. It would have been perfect if it was real stuffing. It did look like real stuffing – enough so that my older daughter, who knew nothing of the backstory on this dish, said innocently: “Stuffing – can I have some?”
“Sure.” I said.
She took a small bowl and a few forkfuls. Then she ate it.
She gave a thumbs up.
“You like it? I said.
“Yeah.” She dashed back to whatever she had been doing previously.
I took a small bowl, put a little turkey gravy on it and took a forkful. Hmmm…it wasn’t that bad. Still wasn’t stuffing, but it was good enough to make it to the table.
Fast-forward a few hours to when we got to the meal. The turkey came out late – we got a late start, but all turned out good in the end. My wife decided to brine the turkey, which she had never done before, and it came out very good – though we found ourselves going nuts trying to figure out what we can brine a large turkey in – a five-gallon paint bucket seemed like the best choice – except that it would be gross. We decided we needed a plastic bag, but I wanted to find a food-safe plastic to brine it in. Hefty saved the day as they make these huge plastic ziploc bags – 4XL was the name, I think. My older daughter was hopping around in one like she was in a sack race – they’re that big.
So the turkey went on the table and the family began to crowd around the kitchen island where the sides were and pile on the food. I had my stuffing along with the brussels sprouts, mashed cauliflower with tarragon, turkey, gravy, and fresh cranberry sauce with Splenda.
The meal was great – even the stuffing – when part of the ensemble that made up my dish – was pretty good. The flavors had melded and mellowed a bit. It didn’t taste like soggy pork rinds anymore. It didn’t taste like stuffing, either, but it wasn’t bad.
I went back to get seconds and noticed that one of our guests had taken some of my stuffing. When they were told what they were eating, they laughed and said they didn’t notice it wasn’t stuffing.
Not exactly a compliment, but I’ll take it as one.
11/30/09 update: the remaining stuffing did get eaten as part of the leftover cleanup that followed Thanksgiving – and not just by me. Reconsidering, I might actually make this one again. One change I would make is to ensure that the pork rinds are crushed to smaller pieces. Pork rinds are more tenacious than bread, and if there are long, thin pieces, they tend to stay together. These long floppy pieces don’t remind one of stuffing, but rather meat. When broken up to a more uniform size, I think that the illusion of stuffing will be better.