I guess if it doesn’t actually go into the turkey, it isn’t stuffing, right? Then it’s dressing, though it doesn’t seem to be dressing anything. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. You could argue that stuffing is the actual real reason to roast a turkey, and I wouldn’t argue too strenuously with you. There seem to be even more recipes for stuffing than there are directions for roasting the turkey, and each variation has its adherents. Rice dressing, oyster stuffing, cornbread stuffing (which, I have to admit, I am not really crazy about), sauerkraut dressing, onion dressing, Chinese greens dressing, bread stuffing. I read somewhere about an Italian family freshly arrived in the United States who wanted to celebrate this great American holiday. They heard that a turkey should be stuffed – so they made a ravioli stuffing. Works for me.
In her own handwriting, Marilyn Monroe’s recipe for stuffing.
This is, more or less, the way I make stuffing. For years I added spinach and sausage to the basic recipe, and then my nephew became a vegan. Out with the sausage. It became an apple and walnut stuffing, and it seemed that everyone actually liked it better. Hmpf. Anyway, I was asked to share a basic stuffing recipe, and this is it. This makes enough to serve 10-12 people with leftovers.
BASIC BREAD STUFFING
- 2 large loaves cheap French bread (I use the bakery loaves from Winco or Holiday, about $1.50 each)
- 1 large yellow or white onion
- 4-5 stalks celery
- 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
- dried or powdered sage
- dry thyme
- dry rosemary
- dry marjoram
- 2 or 3 eggs
- chicken or turkey broth
- salt and pepper
Tear up the bread into small pieces (about 1″ square, more or less) – or cut it, if you have lots of patience. This is a good job to assign to a helpful child. It was my job when I was a kid, and I guess I didn’t screw it up too badly. Let the cut-up bread sit out to get stale – overnight is ideal if you can swing it.
Chop the onion and celery. Melt the butter in a wide frying pan and saute the onion & celery over medium heat until the onion starts to become translucent. Then add the seasonings, and this is a matter of taste: I like more sage than most people, so I have to remember to tone it down a little. Figure about 2 teaspoons each of sage, thyme, and marjoram, and 1 teaspoon of rosemary. Also add about 2 teaspoons salt and as much pepper as you think prudent, and saute all this together another couple of minutes.
Pour in 1 quart of chicken or turkey broth and heat it, then pour the whole thing over the stale bread pieces. Mix as well as you can with a big spoon, though you will probably have to give in and use your hands. Really smoosh this around so the broth & seasonings are evenly distributed. If there are dry patches of bread, add some more broth. Taste for seasoning and add more of whatever you think necessary. When the seasoning is just right, break in the eggs and mix those in thoroughly.
Spoon dressing into a large casserole or two, cover with foil and store in the refrigerator. When the turkey comes out of the oven, bake covered at 350 for about 45 minutes. If the dressing seems dry, pour on a little stock or melted butter.
Variations and additions:
- Vegan apple-walnut dressing: substitute olive oil for butter. Substitute vegetable broth for chicken/turkey stock. Chop two or three apples – Fuji or Golden Delicious are good – and saute along with the onion & celery. Mix 1 cup walnut pieces into the bread when you add the broth. Omit the eggs.
- Sausage and spinach dressing: Cut open 1 pound of Italian sausages and squeeze the meat out of the casings. (Or use 1 pound of bulk sausage.) Cook the sausage along with the onion & celery until the meat is completely cooked through. Add 1 teaspoon fennel seeds to the saute pan. Wash, trim, and chop 1 large bunch of spinach, and add that to the bread as you add the broth.
- Swiss chard dressing: Trim and chop 1 bunch Swiss chard and add to saute pan along with 1 cup slivered almonds and 1 teaspoon oregano. Rinse 1 cup golden raisins in boiling water and add to the bread, along with 1 cup pitted black or green olives.
- Bacon: add crisp crumbled bacon to the bread.
- Kale: Thinly slice 1 bunch kale – I like the flat-leaf types better than the common curly kale, but use whatever is available – and add to the saute pan.
- Additions: sliced sauteed mushrooms, chopped parsley, roasted peeled chopped chiles, minced sauteed garlic, pitted olives, sliced water chestnuts, the cooked giblets from the turkey.
- Rinse chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, prunes, golden raisins) in boiling water, then soak overnight in Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier. Add fruit and liqueur to bread.
- Add 1 cup each chopped pitted dates and walnuts to the bread.
- Substitute other kinds of bread or use a combination of breads. (I save ends and slices from different loaves of bread specifically for this.)
You can probably think of all kinds of other variations and additions. They’re all good and you could create a new tradition with your innovations.