Thanksgiving: Gluten-Free, With All The Trimmings!

This year is the first time New York chef and gluten-free cookbook author Sheryl Goldstein has hosted Thanksgiving for her extended family. Diagnosed with celiac disease at a young age, Sheryl has been developing recipes ever since–with recent assistance from work at the National Gourmet Institute and The Wine Center–to accommodate the gluten-free lifestyle.

The protein called “gluten” is found in flour processed from wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Bread, imitation meats like chicken, fish, pork, and beef, soy sauce, and beer all contain gluten. It’s also used to stabilize foods like ketchup and ice cream, which you would not ordinarily think of as harmful. Intolerance to gluten, or celiac disease (also known as “sprue”), damages the lining of your small intestine, preventing it from absorbing parts of foods that help you stay healthy. This can lead to malnutrition and other damage. It can develop at any point in life.

“Between half and one percent of people in this country are sensitive to gluten,” Ms. Goldstein says. “My challenge for this special holiday meal is to put together a menu of gluten-free Thanksgiving favorites and make everyone happy. The best outcome will be compliments, empty plates, and no mention of missing grains.”

To satisfy both chef and guests, Sheryl’s menu needed to include the classic Thanksgiving dishes, highlight seasonal ingredients, and look beautiful. Without fanfare, here is the menu Sheryl composed.

Stuffed Mushrooms and Crudités
Crudités are healthy and easy to prepare without being too filling, says the chef, and the stuffed mushrooms are a warm and delicious tease to the meal to come. Chopped stems, onions, garlic, and kale sautéed in olive oil, then ricotta and parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley, make a wonderful mushroom stuffing.

Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut squash soup highlights the colors and bounty of the season. “This has been a crowd-pleaser. Create your own favorite version by choosing your own spices (chipotle, curry, cumin, cloves and cayenne, etc.) for the soup. I like Chinese Five Spice because it is not used very often. It infuses a great spicy, but not hot, flavor that adds an element of surprise when you taste the soup.”

Roast Turkey with Sage and Orange
Like vegetables and sweet potatoes, turkey is naturally gluten-free. With so many different types of turkeys on the market, Sheryl’s preference is a free-range organic turkey. Organic feed free of antibiotics and hormones and no confinement to a cage yields a sweet and healthy bird.

“Everyone has a favorite way to cook a turkey. I do not have an opinion on which is the best preparation,” she says. Despite calories and fat content, Sheryl loves the skin. She likes to rub the turkey with a paste of safflower oil, salt, pepper, ground sage, and paprika. Then she stuffs the cavity with an onion cut into halves, an orange cut into quarters, and fresh sage leaves. She uses a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature has reached 165 degrees.

Giblet Gravy
Sheryl says that many cooks make simple gravy out of the pan juices. Her take: “Nothing is better than a thick gravy to coat each piece of turkey”–especially the white meat. She makes hers starting with a gluten-free roux and slowly whisking in broth flavored with vegetables and pan juices. Dry sherry adds flavor to the blend.

Wild Rice Stuffing
Wild rice for stuffing? Certainly better than gluten-free bread, which can get mushy. Filled with nutrients and fiber, wild rice is a safe option as well as a healthy one. Add the typical stuffing flavors–celery, onion, sage, mushroom.

Cranberry Relish
“I absolutely will not use cranberry sauce out of the can. Not just because of how it tastes–but because the impressions on the sides of a canned cranberry roll are so unappealing.” Sheryl provides a subtly tart, sweet, and fresh alternative.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Because they’re already gluten-free, sweet potatoes are kind of a no-brainer. But Sheryl won’t go for the typical pulpy sweet potato pie, even with gluten-free marshmallows. She provides a Thanksgiving classic with a twist: a casserole with marshmallows and brown sugar to keep the kids and traditionalists happy, and chunky veggie so the grown-ups have something to chew.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Green beans or Brussels sprouts are usually the vegetables of choice. Sheryl dresses hers up by splitting them, coating with seasonings and garlic in olive oil, then baking, turning them a few times.

Endive Salad
Salad, is it really necessary? Sheryl says yes, but not in a form that’s overwhelming. At a holiday time, salad provides a cool, light touch to balance the rest of the menu, which inexperienced cooks can make far too heavy.

Apple Cake
Pumpkin pie always is offered, but does anyone eat it? Using apples nicely rounds out the Thanksgiving menu. Apples are in season in the fall, and there are always many local organic varieties to choose from. Sheryl adapts a classic French recipe, using several different types of apples. She says her cake tastes better when made a day ahead, even 2 days.

Chocolate Cookies
Adding something special to finish off the meal, Sheryl puts together tried-and-true chocolate cookies (although she believes many of the gluten-free supermarket kinds can also be delicious). Her home-made confections can be prepared when you have time and then frozen in an airtight container to be eaten later. Be sure to make enough for leftovers!

The No Gluten Solution
Like all rock star chefs, Sheryl has produced a mouth-watering cookbook in hardcover or paperback (see photo). Her recipes give both the culinary artist and the family cook delicious, effortless gluten-free meals that everyone at the table will enjoy. Sheryl includes everything from nourishing takes on classic comfort food to a stunning global approach with new flavors and wonderful textures. You will even want to devour the photographs when you consult this culinary gem.

Sheryl Goldstein can also be found on the No Gluten Solution website and on Facebook. “Like” her No Gluten Solution Facebook page and you can follow her lively blog and get all the latest recipes and info she dishes out. If you are also living the gluten-free life, Sheryl welcomes any questions or suggestions you may have.