or dressing, or whatever you want to call it, is one of my favorite components of Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it comes with some debate, as do most things around a holiday. Put it in the bird? Leave it out of the bird? Add meat? Dried fruit? Nuts? None of the above? People get craaaazy about their stuffing preferences.
Here's what I like. I like either a very simple white bread stuffing with sage, celery, parsley and onions, or else I like a full-frontal assault of oozy, rich sausagey stuffing. More recently, the latter. Either way, I love it most cooked inside the bird, and whatever you do, leave the fruit and nuts out of the picture.
I have 2 stuffing recipes for you today. The simple recipe was my Grandmother Olivier's recipe, which she called dressing, and which is much loved by all who taste it. It is, of course, not an exact recipe, so you're going to have to trust your gut on quantities, and you can certainly tweak amounts to your liking. I've included my editorial suggestions in brackets. If you make this recipe, please do promise me you'll set an elegant table. Were Peggy here today, she'd insist on that.
Peggy Olivier's Turkey Dressing
Approximately 2 lbs. of dry white sandwich bread for a 20-lb. turkey, you'll have some left to bake outside the bird. [Procure your bread (I think she used Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread), remove crusts and cut into cubes. Spread the cubes on a couple of large cookie sheets. Either leave it out overnight, or else toast it in a 250-degree oven 'til it's dried out and crispy.]
Fry bread, celery [approximately 1 c. finely diced], flat-leaf parsely [approximately 1/2 c. chopped], onions [2, finely diced] in 1 stick of margarine [OK, I never use margarine - I use about 2 sticks of salted butter] until the onions and celery are tender. [I'd saute up the onions, parsley and celery first, and then add the bread crumbs.] Sprinkle salt, pepper and dried sage over the bread crumbs to taste.
Add 2-3 bouillon cubes to 2 c. of water to the crumbs [again, I never use bouillon anymore . . . so I add 2 c. of chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth, but you could use turkey (or veg) stock too - point is, you need moisture].
Stuff your turkey, but be careful not to pack it too tightly. Bake the remainder alongside the turkey in a buttered oven-proof casserole dish.
OK, that's the simple side. It's rich enough with the butter. But this next one, my current stuffing of favor, is super-duper rich. You've gotta like sausage to like this one, 'cause it's got a lot. If you know me, you know I LOVE sausage. Even from street vendors. I know, a paradox. I digress.
If you can, get freshly-made sausages, and buy bulk sausage (that means, sausage meat not stuffed into the casings) because it makes things go much more quickly. I buy my sausage at DePasquale's in Newton . . . the service might be gruff, but they make the best darn sausage around here.
Italian Sausage Stuffing2 loaves Italian bread (2 lbs.), crusts removed and cut into 3/4-in. cubes (approximately 20 c.) 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil 1.5 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 large celery rib, finely diced 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1/4 c. fresh sage leaves, finely chopped 4 T. unsalted butter 2 c. low-sodium chicken broth Kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a large roasting pan and toast them for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat, until browned with no trace of pink. Add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in the sage and butter. Add to the roasting pan with the toasted bread and toss. Stir in 2 c. stock, season with salt & pepper to taste.
This stuffs an 18-20 lb. bird. Again, don't over-stuff your turkey and cook any remaining stuffing in a buttered baking dish. I make this the day before Thanksgiving, and put it into a giant glass storage container in the fridge - pull it out in the a.m. when you're bringing your turkey to room temp. before roasting, stuff it up, truss it up, and let it fly. Well, not so much the flying, right?