Friday, November 16, 2012


 Stuffing Mixed and  Ready for the Oven
When I was growing up as a kid, every Thanksgiving my mom always made a traditional bread stuffing with celery, onions, salt, pepper, dried thyme and, of course, cooked turkey giblets. 

And throughout the years, I have made a variety of my own stuffing, some of which have included wild rice, dried cranberries, dried apricots, apples, wild mushrooms, and Hawaiian sweet bread (not all at the same time).

However, for the past several years, I came back to the classic and revived my mom's bread stuffing with a few minor adjustments.  This is another one of those recipes that probably has hundreds--if not, thousands--of variations, but it certainly works.

The bread.  In my opinion, the stuffing is only as good as the bread.  I have learned that a heartier, artisan-style loaf of bread produces a much better stuffing versus the "sliced" stuff that my mom used, although sometimes she would use seeded hard rolls from the bakery.  I don't think the term artisan existed back then.

The Bread

Cubed Bread
Celery, onions, and herbs.  The celery and onions never change here and will always be staple ingredients.  However, I did get a little more creative with the herbs. In lieu of dried thyme, I use fresh (although dry would certainly work).  Also, I added fresh sage to the mix (again, dried could probably work, as well).  Then some celery seeds (which, sort of, "take the place" of the poppy seeds from the rolls), and, finally, two of the "classic" fall spices that scream Thanksgiving, freshly-grated nutmeg, and cloves. 

Celery, Onion and Spice Mix
No giblets, salt, or eggs.  We made turkey stock using the giblets, so the "cooked meat" will be used for gravy and not in the stuffing.  Salt is not necessary because of the ingredients used and there is no need to add any more sodium to this. And, although many stuffing recipes call for eggs, the turkey stock works well to bind the stuffing for. . . The Finale . . . 

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?  So, where do we put the stuffing--inside the turkey or bake it in a separate dish? I opt to do the latter.  Although, of course, the stuffing could always be loosely placed in the turkey, and the leftover stuffing baked separately.  When the stuffing is baked in a separate dish, turkey stock is used to moisten it so it could absorb the juices that would have come from the turkey if the stuffing was inside the bird.

Traditional Bread Stuffing

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted
3 cups onions, chopped
2 cups celery, scraped to remove stringy outer portion and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 teaspoons celery seeds
Pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground (about 1/16th teaspoon)
Pinch of ground cloves (about 1/16th teaspoon)
1 one-pound loaf of day-old bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, toasted if fresh
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cup home-made turkey broth (made from the turkey giblets)

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, thyme, sage, celery seeds, nutmeg, and cloves.  Cook mixture until softened, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, toss the cooked vegetables with the bread cubes.  Season with the pepper.  Melt the remaining butter and pour it over the stuffing with 1/2 cup of home-made turkey broth.  The stuffing should hold together.

Place stuffing in a baking dish and pour about one or two cups of the turkey broth over the stuffing to moisten.  Bake, covered, in a 325 degree oven, for about an hour.  For a "crunchy" top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking. 

Yields about 12 cups

Finished Baked Stuffing

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