Well, here’s my recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing — a perfect fit for this ‘80s/’90s nostalgia blog.
Stuffing is my only must-have Thanksgiving dish. The turkey is okay and I love a good artichoke, but all I really need is the stuffing. Piles of it. Enough to build a decoy Matt completely out of wet bread.
It’s gotta be the homemade kind. If you’ve only ever had Stove Top, it’s just not comparable. I adore Stove Top, but that stuffing and homemade stuffing are two completely different dishes.
Stuffing is one of those dishes that’s impossible to get wrong. (Well, actually, it’s pretty easy to get wrong, but the miraculous thing about stuffing is that it is always salvageable, no matter how badly you treat it.)
Below is my recipe, which is technically my family’s recipe, albeit with some modifications.
– 1 loaf of bread
– 1 box of chicken stock
– 2 stalks of celery
– 3 links of pork sausage (avoid the hot ones)
– Fresh cranberries or Craisins
– 1 red apple
– Handful of pine nuts
– Stick of butter
– Olive Oil
– Salt and pepper
If you don’t already have some of those things, I concede that this stuffing will cost a small fortune. Still worth it? OH GOD, YES. This isn’t just “food” — it’s an excuse to clear your calendar for three days and revolve everything around your present level of stuffing bloat.
I should note that you can add/subtract/replace several of these ingredients and still end up with a serviceable stuffing, if not an even better one. Go with your gut, and then fill that same gut with the stuffing of your dreams.
In a small pan, squeeze the three sausage links out of their casings (gross), breaking them into grape-sized bits as you go along. They shouldn’t be small crumbles, but you don’t want to confuse them with sliders, either.
Use a teaspoon of olive oil (teaspoon because I don’t wanna admit that I used five tablespoons) to hurry things along. You want the sausage sufficiently browned, but don’t overcook it. (You’re gonna cook the stuff two more times before we’re through, so be conservative on the doneness.)
Set the sausage aside, and start tearing the bread. Stuffing aficionados are gonna argue with me about this, but I prefer to leave the bread in fairly large pieces. If you’re getting 3-4 pieces out of a single slice, that’s enough.
It’s gonna shrink a bunch when you cook it, and besides, if I wanted uniform cubes, I could just buy a bag of pre-seasoned bullshit and be done with everything five minutes sooner. I want my stuffing to have character, you see.
So yeah, tear away. The pieces needn’t be the same size nor shape. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t.
And the crusts? I like to use all of them, but too much crust tends to impart a slightly bitter taste on the finished stuffing. If you want to play it safe, ditch half of the crusts. Save them for the squirrels. Foster trust.
Next, let’s get the supporting cast in order.
Cut one red apple into meaty cubes. Not too small, now.
Chop two slices of celery into fairly thin pieces. (Again, not too small, because celery is cool when it’s noticeable, but a total asshole when it surprises you. Like I want to know if this is gonna be a “celery bite” or a “non-celery bite,” you follow?)
Toss in a very generous handful of raisins. (Even if you hate raisins, trust me on this. By the time we’re through, they will no longer be raisins.)
The cranberries are definitely optional, but I think you should go for it. They sweeten things up and add splashes of color. If you’re not 100% down with fresh cranberries, a handful of Craisins would have a subtler impact.
And don’t forget the pine nuts! You gotta have the pine nuts. They’re expensive as hell, but so worth the expense. (If you absolutely need to, I guess you could replace them with crushed almonds or walnuts. But deep down, I do not condone it.)
So you take that plate of bird food and toss it into a huge pan, and then you add butter. And I mean a LOT of butter. Like a whole stick of it. This isn’t a stuffing for healthy people.
Amazing things happen over the next few minutes. The raisins rehydrate and become plump little bombs of buttery sweetness. The cranberries pop into smears of red paste. The celery grows soft, the apple becomes savory, and the pine nuts… mostly just burn. Yeah, maybe wait a minute or two before you put in the pine nuts.
Once everything seems sufficiently browned/softened/buttery/delicious, toss in the reserved sausage. Mix everything and let it sit there for a minute.
You’ll know you’re on the right track if you feel like you could stop here and be perfectly happy eating what’s already in front of you.
Throw in any remaining butter (or maybe sneak in half of another stick, because I’ll never tell) and then toss in ALL OF THAT BREAD. Remove the pan from heat and start mixing immediately, soaking the bread with all of the lovely buttery ooze beneath it.
Even two sticks of butter wouldn’t be enough to saturate this much bread, so start dumping in gallons of chicken stock. Maybe not gallons, but pretty close to a whole box. If you’re worried about sodium, well, tough.
Keep stirring and pouring until there’s no more dry bread. Add tons of salt and a little black pepper. At this point, it should look finished, even if it isn’t.
After letting the ingredients settle for a few, spoon everything into a pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (I usually cover the pan for 25 of those minutes, and then let the last 5 serve to crisp everything up.)
When the stuffing is all hot and bothered, dump it into a serving bowl and stir like crazy. The stuffing should end with a consistency that stands directly between pancake batter and spackling paste.
Guys, it is SO GOOD. Whether you have it with gravy or on its own, it is SO GODDAMNED GOOD. It’s one of those dishes where all of the ingredients somehow complement and compete with each other. Every bite is good, but no two bites are the same. It’s like eating twenty things at once, because you actually kinda are.
Bonus points: It’s even better cold. Really, it’s ten times better cold. It seems to improve with age, too. If you can’t finish the stuffing in one sitting, congratulations on being human, and don’t you worry: It’ll taste even better tomorrow.
Thanks for reading my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.
Now go make some.