There are few things I love more than Thanksgiving. And there are few things I love more on Thanksgiving than stuffing. Just in time for the big day, then, a stuffing post.
Or do you call it dressing??
We grew up calling it stuffing. Even though we never stuffed a bird. My mom thought it was a bit gross to stuff a bird. Subsequently I never stuff the bird either. I hear from my dear and trusted friend Phyllis that stuffing the bird creates incredibly moist, tasty stuffing. I will have to try it sometime!
One thing I love about stuffing is how versatile it can be. Mom, for instance, made an incredible shrimp and crabmeat stuffing I can still taste to this day. During the year she would also make a southwestern stuffing, with green chilis, black olives and cheese. A good basic stuffing recipe is incredibly adaptable to almost any flavor.
There is also the question as to white bread or corn bread. I say, why choose? Each year I have one of each at the table. So whether you call it dressing or stuffing or, um, Stove Top (Never, Ever, Ever), below are two terrific stuffing recipes, from two very good friends. Both these recipes are so good, I make them not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year when I have that craving for stuffing.
Remember first a few general stuffing notes:
* Stuffing tastes better over time so you can ease your Thanksgiving by making the stuffing the day before or even days ahead. Bake it, then it can sit in the fridge a day or two, getting more flavorful, or you can make it even a week before, freeze it, then reheat it (my trick.)
* You can make fresh vegetable stock in 30 minutes or fresh chicken stock in less than an hour. Fresh stock makes a world of difference. Just do it. Click here.
* Stuffing is not an exact science. I never ever follow these recipes to the exact amount and the stuffing is always is wonderful. Just taste as you go!
NAN’S CLASSIC STUFFING
My friend Nan is an amazing cook. I’ve had many wonderful dinners at her house. She introduced this stuffing to me and I’ve made it every year since.
There are a number of things I love about this recipe… it works with either cornbread or white bread. Nan, in fact, uses both to great effect. And while it is indeed wonderful with pancetta and sausage, we both substitute in soy chorizo, which is shockingly good and creates a stuffing that pleases the meat eaters yet is vegetarian friendly. As with any stuffing recipe, it is hard to screw up. I’ve simplified her relatively easy recipe even more to make it as user friendly as possible. Oh and, yeah, I’ve simplified it also because I am lazy.
2 large loaves of good quality bread (LaBrea Bakery Rosemary Olive Oil bread is an excellent choice) OR 2 pans of cornbread. For the best cornbread in the world, click here. (You can do one of each and mix your breads.)
2 cups half and half
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
7 T butter
1.5 lbs bulk pork sausage (or 1 lb soy chorizo)
8 oz pancetta (optional)
3 medium onions, chopped fine …about 3 cups
3 ribs celery.. and leaves! (impt!)… about 1 1/2 cups
4 T minced fresh herbs… thyme, rosemary, sage and or savory are good choices
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1. Cut or tear the bread into bite sized pieces. Some people like to cut. I myself tear, I like the rustic look. (Did you know “rustic” means “lazy”?) Spread the pieces on 2 baking sheets and dry out in a 250 degree oven for an hour. Place in a large bowl when cool.
2. Whisk stock, half and half, and eggs in a bowl. Pour this mixture over the bread and toss pieces gently to coat. (Cornbread can become mushy so I like to make bigger pieces of cornbread)
3. Heat 12 inch skillet over medium-high head until hot. Add 2 T butter and swirl to coat pan. When foam subsides, add your meats or soy chorizo or whatever combo and cook, stirring, until it loses it’s raw color. Remove to a bowl. If you use chorizo, wipe the pan relatively clean so your veggies do not turn orange.
4. Add 4 T of butter and saute onions and celery until softened. As they cook, add salt and pepper liberally, and your herbs. After 5 minutes, add the garlic. Cook on medium heat until all is soft.
5. Add this mixture to the meats/chorizo, then toss with the bread mixture. Toss gently so some of the bread remains in full pieces and does not mush. Taste! Do you need more seasoning? Add it.
6. Cover bowl with wrap and let sit an hour, or 4 hours, or overnight, whatever you have time for.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large rectangular baking dish. Pour in stuffing and any remaining liquid. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
8. If making ahead, bake fully, then keep in fridge or freeze. If you freeze it, let it thaw overnight. Either way, pad with butter, all over, when you reheat.
Note: Eliminate the meats/chorizo and you have a wonderful basic stuffing recipe here, ready for any kind of flavor twist.
Where I grew up, on the gulf coast of Texas, the idea of fruit in stuffing was anathema. I could never imagine it! I’d hear of people putting, say, apples in stuffing and think, “What??? They must be a Yankee!”, about as bad a thing a Southerner can call, well, anyone!
So the fact my friend Jan has converted me to making a stuffing that does indeed contain fruit is pretty amazing. This is a terrific stuffing!! I would be making it this year, along with Nan’s version, but Jan is bringing her version to the meal! This is a wonderful addition to any table.
2 pans of cornbread. For the best cornbread in the world, click here.
3-4 chopped onions
1 1/3 c. chopped celery
1 lb. chopped mushrooms
4-6 c. chicken broth
1 c. fresh snipped parsley
2 t. sage
1 T. rosemary
2 t. thyme
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 string dried figs (I use about ten)
1 c. Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries – optional)
3 apples, peeled and chopped
1 c. pecans
1. Bake your cornbread. Let it cool.
2. Melt 1/2 c. butter in a huge skillet or Dutch oven. Sauté the onions and mushrooms and celery until soft.
3. Add chicken broth and spices and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
4. Cook your sausage.
5. Crumble the cornbread into a very large bowl. Add the sausage. Snip in the figs (I quarter them). Add the Craisins, if using, the apples and pecans (set some stuffing aside into another bowl if you have people coming with food allergies). Pour the chicken broth/onion mixture in and mix all together.
6. Turn the whole mixture into a casserole dish and bake till warmed through — about half an hour at 350°.