Falafel

Is there a better food than falafel? No, I say, there is not. Except maybe mashed potatoes. It’s a close call.

Finding gluten-free falafel out in the wild is hard. Making it at home is so easy, you won’t miss going out for this wonderful food at all. As a bonus, falafel makes a great vegan option for those times you need one.

One huge note, that I’ll repeat in the Notes section as well: do not use canned chickpeas when making falafel. They have absorbed too much liquid in the can, and will create a heavy, less fluffy falafel. You will thank yourself for soaking your garbanzo beans the old-fashioned way!

Macaroni and Cheese

Years ago during South by Southwest, my husband and I snuck out for a meal by ourselves. We ended up at the Moonshine Grill in downtown Austin. On the menu was an amazing macaroni and cheese with spicy green peppers. The moment we returned home, I started trying to recreate this recipe.

Over time, I stopped trying to make Moonshine’s mac and cheese, focusing instead on making my own. My ever-faithful bookclub has cheerfully (and hungrily) endured my experiments over the years, and there was only one major failure. Note to all: soymilk is not a good substitute for real milk in this instance.

You live, you learn.

From my perspective, the key to good mac and cheese is a mix of cheeses that bring appropriate meltiness and flavor. As a rule, I rely upon good old-fashioned regular milk when making my cheese sauce, but have, once or twice, tried out evaporated milk. The latter does add an interesting creaminess to the sauce…and that weird evaporated milk smell completely disappears in the sauce.

Needless to say, this recipe makes excellent leftovers. I do find that gluten-free pastas tend to absorb a lot of sauce, so I tend to go heavy on the sauce, lighter on the noodles.

Everything Gumbo

For the gluten-free eater, gumbo is one of those foods we will likely never enjoy in a restaurant. At the heart of this dish is the classic New Orleans-style roux — a mix of flour and oil cooked until it is a rich, deep brown. Roux is synonymous with gumbo.

But I love gumbo, and knew I could make an excellent dish using gluten-free flour, specifically, in my case, Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose GF flour. I also borrowed a trick from Alton Brown, using my oven to build my roux. This allowed me to do all my prep work while the roux turned a gorgeous shade of chocolate brown.

You can make chicken gumbo, shrimp gumbo, vegetarian gumbo, gumbo with okra, without okra. It’s your gumbo. This recipe has everything but the okra (which I prefer served on the side, lightly fried rather than in the stew itself). As a bonus, gumbo served over steamed rice makes an impressive they’ll-never-guess-it’s-GF party dish!

Gluten-Free Fried Chicken

I don’t remember how many years ago it was, but one of my friends brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to our monthly bookclub meeting. Prior to this, the height of decadence in bookclub came in the form of our local so, so bad-for-you Chinese restaurant. With the exception of our vegetarian member, everyone, after noting they hadn’t had KFC in years, dug into the chicken. And the biscuits.

Before long, fried chicken became a regular feature at bookclub. And I am not ashamed to say the one thing I regretted most about going gluten-free was…yes, no more KFC. Which meant I had to get over my fear of frying.

Needless to say, making fried chicken is a personal thing. Everyone has a recipe they swear by. The trick is to gussy up the flour mixture with herbs and spices and tasty stuff to give it lots of flavor. The other trick is to use really hot (350 degrees) oil to get a good seal on the chicken — that way the juiciness stays in while the oil stays out.

You can fry in a deep fryer, on the stove in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, or even bake this version of fried chicken. And, of course, make it your own by mixing up the seasonings to your own taste. And while you can use any and all part of the chicken, remember that breasts tend to dry out more than legs and thighs.

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