Every year, we start thinking about Thanksgiving sometime in October, when the cooking magazine covers whet our appetites for the annual November feast. We love to read about new side dishes, seasonal pies, and creative techniques for spicing up our traditional favorites. Oven roasted Brussel sprouts with balsamic and shallots—yes, please!
Only one dish is off limits to change in our homes; one side dish that has to be doubled in order to get any left overs. Is it true at your house too? We are talking about the stuffing! Whether you call it filling or dressing or stuffing, add oysters or chestnuts or Italian sausage, cook it on the side or in the bird, start with stale white bread or homemade corn bread, stuffing is hands down, the most anticipated dish on the table. The turkey may be the star of the show, but in our homes nothing says ‘special occasion’ quite like the stuffing.
And it is so humble, really. Made with stale bread and seasoned with love, stuffing is made differently in every kitchen and by every cook. Here at Cutlery Couture, we talk fondly about our stuffing—moistened by homemade turkey broth in one house, studded with diced green apples in another, made with Challah bread cubes in a third. “You put carrots in yours?” “Fresh sage is the secret!” But we all agree the Thanksgiving sandwich the next day with turkey, stuffing and cranberry layered tall is maybe its best performance!
Just in case, you don’t have a go-to stuffing recipe and if you also have to accommodate some diet restrictions here are two can’t fail basic recipes to make your own. Just add …
Basic stuffing (for in the bird or in a casserole)
1 stick butter
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and diced
3-4 ribs celery, cleaned and diced
2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and diced
salt and black pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed and leaves chopped
1 dozen fresh sage leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
1-1 1/2 loaf Challah bread, a day or two old, torn into small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
1 to 2 cups turkey stock (you can make your own by cooking the turkey neck and organs that came with your bird with a few peeled carrots, a medium onion, 3-4 ribs of celery with their leaves, a handful of peppercorns, salt in a small stock pot with 4-5 cups of cold water. Or you can use low salt broth from a carton.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 6 T of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, apples, salt, pepper and cook, stirring until vegetables have softened and herbs wilted, approximately 5 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add the bread, beaten eggs, parsley and enough broth so the dressing is well moistened. Blend well and check for seasoning.
Grease a baking dish with 1 T butter and put stuffing in it - top with last bit of butter. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown. Check to make sure interior is moist. If not, add some more broth and return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Or stuff mixture into turkey cavity and follow instructions for baking stuffed bird.
Vegan Dressing (with thanks to New York Times Cooking)
1 baguette or peasant loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
½ cup pecans
4 T vegan butter, plus more for greasing the dish
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 to 4 celery stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 T finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 T fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Kosher salt and black pepper
The day before you make the stuffing, place the bread cubes on a sheet pan overnight, uncovered, to dry out.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and transfer to the oven. Roast for 4 minutes. Remove the pecans from the oven, chop finely and set aside.
Heat the butter in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is clear. Reduce the heat to low. Add the sage, thyme and parsley, and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
Add the bread to the skillet and 2 1/2 cups broth. Gently fold everything together, so the bread soaks up the broth. Fold in the pecans. Taste, and season the stuffing with salt and black pepper.
Transfer all of the ingredients to the prepared baking dish. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup broth over the top. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the casserole and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is just beginning to brown. Serve.