Monday, November 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Stuffings...

I don’t know about you, but for me, the Thanksgiving meal is all about the stuffing.  Don’t get me wrong; I adore turkey and I don’t roast a whole bird often, so it’s a very special treat in our house.  However, I really think we all eat the turkey as a vehicle for the stuffing!  To me, it really signals the holiday and all those great flavors of sage and thyme smell so good and take me back to wonderful memories of childhood holidays. 

I come from a house divided.  My mother is from Lancaster County Pennsylvania and my dad hales (hails?) from Lower Alabama.  Since I cannot figure out a way to please everyone with a single stuffing, I double down for Turkey day and always make two stuffings!   The good news is that this means I always have plenty of leftovers!  Leftover stuffing is my most versatile ingredient and here a few super ways that I like to use almost any type of leftover stuffing in the days following Thanksgiving:

  1.  Form leftover patties of stuffing and dip in egg.  Saute them in butter or olive oil and make “Thanksgiving Benedict” the next day, toped with a poached egg and leftover ham or smoked turkey.
  2.  Make a deluxe turkey sandwich, including stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and greens
  3. Roll stuffing into small balls and dip into egg and then bread crumbs.  Fry like Risotto balls and serve with warm cranberry sauce as a dipping treat!
  4.  Make leftover stuffing into dumplings with added egg, milk, flour and baking powder and use them in your turkey soup!
  5. Break up small bits of stuffing and add to waffle batter.  Top with turkey, gravy and warm cranberry sauce!
  6. Be a purist - Just eat it with some gravy and leftover turkey scraps!

To be honest, most of the time, my stuffing is not stuffing at all.  Technically, it’s dressing!  I like to cook my stuffing outside of the bird.  This way, I can get a nice even roast on my bird and I can get a soft, moist stuffing with a nice crunchy top!  But whatever you call it, stuffing or dressing, just call it delicious!  Feel free to experiment a bit and try new things.  Sometimes, I like to go crazy and bake one of mine in individual muffin tins.  Sometimes, those don’t even get to the table to be honest!

Here are the 2 stuffings I like to make which offer my guests really different flavor profiles and textures.  Honestly, it is not much more trouble to make two versions because you can chop all the onions and celery and many of the herbs all at once and then, divide them.  I have a cornbread dressing with chestnuts, bacon and herbs as my personal favorite.  The use of cornbread makes it very crunchy and the bacon gives it a beautiful smokiness.  Next, I make a bread stuffing, using sourdough or ciabatta, with parsnips, sausage, apples and golden raisins.  Gobble gobble!   

6 cups cornbread stuffing mix, or cut up stale homemade cornbread (not the sweet kind)
8 slices bacon
3 Tbsp Butter
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
2 3/4 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, removed from stems
2 cups coarsely chopped chestnuts from one 16-ounce jar
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Salt and Pepper to taste
Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Fry bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove bacon and in the same pan, add the butter, and then the chopped onions and celery.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add to corn bread. Mix in 2 1/4 cups broth and herbs. Stir in chestnuts. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the egg and add the whole mixture to the buttered pan. Add up to 1/2 cup more broth if stuffing seems dry.  This can be done one day ahead if desired.  Just check the amount of moisture before baking and add additional broth if necessary.
Cover with foil; bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until top begins to brown, about 25 -30 minutes longer.

4 cups sourdough or ciabatta bread cubes
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 cups chopped onions
1 cups chopped celery or chopped fennel
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 ½  pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cubed
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cubed
½ cup golden raisins

1/3 cup packed fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 ½ cup low-salt chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake bread cubes on 2 large rimmed baking sheets until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes.  You can do this step a day or two ahead if you like.
Sauté sausages in very large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking into pieces with spoon, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl; add bread.
Plump raisins in hot water and set aside. Add onions and celery (or fennel) to same skillet and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes; adding herbs for last few minutes.  Transfer to bowl with bread using a slotted spoon. Melt 1/4 cup butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and parsnips and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.  Mix into stuffing, along with raisins, drained from the hot liquid in which they’ve been plumped. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing to the prepared dish; drizzle with  the chicken broth and remaining melted butter. Cover with foil. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake stuffing covered until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until beginning to brown, about 15 more minutes. 

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