Most families have favorite stuffing or dressing recipes that have been passed down for several generations. If you weren’t privy to the early Thanksgiving morning kitchen activities as a kid, there’s a chance you may have missed watching Mom or Grandma making their signature stuffing.
There are many stuffing recipe and variations from region to region, and from family to family. There is not “one way” for making stuffing. But, the most traditional stuffing, with its origins in New England, is bread stuffing. The thrifty New Englanders used day old bread as a base. Herbs, sautéed vegetables and seasonings were added, as well as a liquid to bind the ingredients, which might have included stock and eggs. Today, stuffing may include more exotic ingredients such as dried fruits and nuts, or specialty mushrooms.
When it comes to holiday cooking, Martha is the undisputed doyenne of All Things Holidays. After scouring the Internet for an instructional cooking video, Martha Stewart’s step-by-step slideshow about how to make stuffing was the best, hands down. If this is your first time making the dressing for Thanksgiving, take the time to learn the basics.
Another great resource for Thanksgiving dressing and stuffing recipes is Saveur’s website.
Here’s our favorite recipe for dressing.
Sausage and Cranberry Bread Stuffing for Turkey
12 cups, cut into 1/2-inch bread cubes, plus 2 cups finely ground fresh bread crumbs (use a food processor) from a couple loaves of dense, crusty Italian or French bread
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (ground)
1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 pounds bulk Italian sausage or quality pork sausage with sage
6 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup brandy
3 medium celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, broken into large pieces
3 large eggs
1 quart chicken or turkey stock (or part milk and stock)
Optional: a few tablespoons of additional melted butter
Prepare bread cubes and bread crumbs and place in very large mixing bowl. Set aside.
To bread cube mixtures, add Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, orange zest and fresh parsley. Toss to combine well. Set aside.
In large sauté pan, crumble and cook sausage until no longer pink. Add to bread cube mixture.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in large sauté pan. Add chopped onions and cook until onions begin to caramelize. When the onions are golden brown, add brandy. Stir and continue cooking until brandy is reduced to a syrup consistency. Add to bread cube mixture.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in sauté pan. Add chopped celery and cook for five minutes, or until slightly softened. Add to bread cube mixture.
Toss cranberries and pecans in bread cube mixture. Using your hands or large spoon, combine the dressing ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and stock (or part milk and stock). Pour 1/3 of mixture over dressing mixture. Mix lightly. Add the last of the egg-stock mixture to the dressing and mix to combine.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spray a large casserole dish or baking pan with vegetable non-stick spray. Spoon the dressing into the prepared dish. (Drizzle an additional 3-4 tablespoons of butter on top of the dressing, if desired, for a crustier finish.) Cover with foil, with one small slit cut in the middle.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking an additional 25-30 minutes, or until dressing is golden brown and crusty.
Replace cranberries with chopped prunes, apricots or chopped tart apples
Replace pecans with chopped chestnuts