Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving: the stuffing

Making stuffing (or dressing, if you insist) for your Thanksgiving dinner is dead easy.  It's a few staples from your fridge, some herbs (dried or fresh), stale bread, and stock.  Dead easy.

For 6 cups of stuffing:

5 cups bread (stale, not so fresh, toasted, whatever you have), cut up into cubes
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 Tbs butter
2 cups stock (chicken is fine, turkey is better)
sage, about 2 Tbs fresh leaves, chopped
thyme, about 2 tsp, dried or fresh
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the celery and onion in butter until softened.  Set aside.

Onions and celery sauteing in butter. 
An iconic aroma of a Thanksgiving morning.

Put your bread cubes in another bowl.  Warm up the stock slightly -- it doesn't have to be boiling, but it shouldn't be ice cold either.  Pour about a cup of the stock over the bread cubes and mix gently.  Here's where a bit of judgment is necessary: you want to cubes to be dampened, but not sodden with moisture.  If the bread has been toasted or is very stale, add a bit more stock, mix, then cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow the bread to soak in the stock.

The kind of bread you use will determine what your stuffing becomes.  I used a sourdough bread here (frankly, it was the crusts cut off of a loaf which was used for another recipe).  Good white bread is fine.  A French baguette or an Italian loaf is nice, too.  Sure, add some crumbled up cornbread here, if you have it.  That's nice, too.

Bread, moistened with stock, sitting to soften.

Add your softened veggies to the bread cubes, add in your herbs (fresh is best, dried is OK), salt and pepper to taste.  Add more stock if you think the mixture is too dry.  Taste for seasoning. 

 Mixed gently, and tasted for seasoning. 

Again, here's a point of judgment: I happen to like my stuffing very peppery and sagey, so I go heavy on both.  What you prefer is wholly up to your tastes and those of your guests.

 About two tablespoons of chopped fresh sage, from the herb garden. 

You have the basics here for good stuffing to accompany a roasted turkey.  At this point, you can be as creative about your stuffing as you like. Add some cooked rice if you like.  Browned sage sausage.  Apples, finely diced and sauteed in a bit of butter to soften.  Raisins.  Craisins.  Nuts.  Chestnuts.  Mushrooms, sliced or chopped, browned in butter, and finished with a bit of sherry or brandy. 

Arrange the stuffing in a casserole, and bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes until a bit browned and a bit bubbly around the edges. 

Arranged in the casserole and waiting to be popped into the oven. 

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