Is there anything more near and dear to a family's heart than the "traditional" family stuffing they grew up with on the holidays? When I use the term stuffing by the way, I am referring to the side of wet bread that is served up next to thousands of turkeys across the land. Whether it is cooked inside the bird or outside of the bird, for clarity sake, I'm just calling it stuffing.
I mean, really - I've tasted (and made) dozens of different stuffings. Some good, some really good and some outright awful.
Now that I am all grown up and have my own kitchen, I always serve two types of stuffing:
My dad's (the one I grew up with, with NO variations)
And mine. (always something different)
Just for you, my readers, I am offering up a third kind, Your Stuffing.
My Dad's Traditional Holiday Stuffing:
2 loaves fresh white bread, crust left on, cut into 1/2 X 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup milk
2 cups celery, chopped small
2 cups onion, chopped small
Crisco for frying
In a blender, blend the eggs and milk together. Add a generous teaspoon of salt and blend to mix.
Put the bread cubes in a big bowl and pour the milk/egg mixture over, tossing to coat evenly. The bread will be damp, but not sodden. Set aside.
In an electric or large frying pan, place about 2 heaping tablespoons of crisco. Melt and heat over medium heat until hot. Add 1/3 cup onions and 1/3 cup celery and saute until almost soft. About 3-5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add 1/3 of the bread cube mixture and fry until the bread cubes are browned all over. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with more crisco, then remaining onions and celery and bread cube mixture until all done (about 3 batches or more, depending on the size of your frying pan)
Let cool completely*. When cool, stuff the bird loosely. Any left over stuffing, place in greased casserole with lid and bake along side of your turkey, basting at least twice with pan drippings. Bake about an hour.
*you may want to make it the day before and refrigerate until ready to proceed.
Make it you own:
Vegetarian: Bake in greased casserole, adding about a cup of vegetable broth.
Herbal: Add 1 tablespoon each: fresh sage, thyme, rosemary. (dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon)
Savory: Add 1 pound cooked ground country sausage and 1 tablespoon sage.
Nutty: Add cooked, diced chestnuts and sage and fresh ground pepper
Whole Wheat: use 1 loaf whole wheat bread and 1 loaf white
Cider: instead of basting with pan drippings use apple cider and season with ground sage.
My Stuffing (at least for this year)
Sourdough with sausage and apples:
1 large loaf sourdough bread, crusts cut off and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1 pound ground country style sausage
1 large onion, chopped about 2 cups
3 (about) celery stalks, chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 stick butter (about 4 tablespoons)
3 cups Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, stirring occasionally. (about 15 minutes) Transfer to large bowl.
Saute sausage over medium high heat until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon transfer to bowl with bread cubes. Add onions and celery to skillet with sausage fat and saute until soft. Transfer to bowl with bread and sausage.
Melt butter in same frying pan and add apples and saute until soft, add sage and stir. Add to bread mixture, season with salt and pepper and combine all ingredients well. Cool completely. You may want to make this one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a large casserole. Whisk together eggs and chicken broth. Add to stuffing mix and toss well. Spoon into prepared casserole and bake uncovered 45 to 60 minutes.
Make it your own:
Substitute dried cranberries for the apples.
Add chopped pecans for sweetness and crunch
Use whole wheat or cracked wheat bread instead of sourdough
Use bacon instead of sausage
Omit the sausage to make it vegetarian (use vegetable broth)
A Cook's Notes:
Stuffing is all about bread, eggs and flavorings. Mix and match. Add fresh herbs, nuts or dried fruits (apricots are awesome too). Wild rice mixes with nuts and fruit are also wholesome and tasty. Just remember a few things:
A stuffed turkey will take longer to roast than an unstuffed one. Add about 5 minutes per pound for stuffed.
NEVER use hot stuffing to stuff a bird. The stuffing ingredients must be cold.
NEVER stuff the bird the day before. ALWAYS stuff just prior to popping in the oven.
ALWAYS taste the stuffing and make seasoning adjustments before baking.
AND always aim for a new / old family tradition. If you do make adjustments to recipes, write them down so you remember what you liked or disliked about the dish. It will help the next time you try to recreate it.
Do you have a favorite stuffing / dressing recipe? Something from your childhood that you just can't live without during the holidays? Tell me about them - if you want to share a recipe, all the better!