Stuffing. What? youse got your bread, vegetables, seasonings, salt, some more salt – badda bing! If stuffing’s never been your assignment on Thanksgiving, be brave because we have a recipe that’s a doozy.
Apologies to my Jersey friends, but we are at The Shore in Southern Cal all week because the Middle School play, Midsummer/Jersey, opens on Friday. My son plays the obvious Shakespearean bronzed hairdresser, and although his director toyed with drag or feminine portrayals – he’s going full Andrew Dice Clay – Ooh! In rehearsals up to his eyeballs, so I can share something with you that used to give me stage fright – Stuffing.
For you Thanksgiving professionals, stuffing may be the easiest of the day’s spread. For me, it was hard to get skilled on the whole stuffing business when you only make it one time a year, while under the Iron Chef stress of timing fourteen dishes, and then your uncle throws you a culinary curveball – my date is gluten free. OMG what did the GF pilgrims do? Get the rice!
I’ve played with stuffing recipes over the years and failed every single time until last year when those fabulous cooking geeks at America’s Test Kitchen came to the rescue for us. Chris Kimball and his harem of uber chefstresses are my Kardashians. I can’t stop watching these all-knowing cooks try to out-fact each other while I try to keep up with lessons on protein breakdowns. These kitchen gods solved my dry, tasteless stuffing rut with three brilliant suggestions that I have to share with you.
1. Using plain white bread, low-toasted in the oven, rather than staled cubes, enabled the bread to soak up more juices and gave it better flavor. Thankfully, we have bread options for our gluten-free friends, and our Hanukkah celebrating friends can use challah.
Half inch cubes do the trick.
The usual suspects – celery, onions, fresh herbs, eggs, chicken stock – make appearances, but center stage is Italian sweet sausage which brings its own troupe of luscious seasonings from fennel, oregano, and juicy pork meat – a brilliant suggestion #2.
3. Turkey wings, broken and browned drip savory juices into the prepared stuffing as it bakes. It’s flavor that we’d typically get from stuffing the bird, but we’ve learned that actually stuffing a bird with stuffing is not as safe as our health inspectors prefer because the cavity doesn’t always reach safe cooking temperatures. If youonly roast turkey breasts – guilty – you’d be challenged in finding a suitable way to tuck in stuffing. Just ask Snooki, it’s hard to stuff a breast… ooh, bada bing! Still with me?
The turkey wings will be our secret. After baking, they’re removed never to be discussed with anyone, ever. You can serve up in your favorite bowl or in individual portions.
We’ll have one more post for Thanksgiving and all of its beige glory before time comes
Until then, break a wing and what-not.
savory turkey stuffing, raves
cooktime: 15 min serves 10-12
stuffing baketime: 60-70 minutes
stuffing baketime: 60-70 minutes
2 lbs hearty white sandwich bread (20 to 22 slices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 16 cups)
3 lbs turkey wings (ask butcher to divide wings at joints) NOTE: AMT says: chicken wings can be substituted for the turkey wings. If using chicken wings, separate them into 2 sections (it’s not necessary to separate the tips) and poke each segment 4 or 5 times. Also, increase the amount of broth to 3 cups, reduce the amount of butter to 2 tablespoons, and cook the stuffing for only 60 minutes (the wings should register over 175 degrees at the end of cooking).
2 tsp vegetable oil
1lb bulk Italian sweet pork sausage – if butcher doesn’t have sausage meat in bulk, use link and remove the meat from casings.
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 large eggs
1cup dried cherries (optional)
1cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped fine (optional)
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread bread cubes in even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until edges have dried but centers are slightly moist (cubes should yield to pressure), 45 to 60 minutes, stirring several times during baking. Transfer to large bowl or airtight container. Bread can be toasted one day in advance.
- Before cooking & assembling – have all ingredients and cooking equipment prepped:
- wings in segments
- bread cubes in large mixing bowl
- vegetables chopped
- herbs minced
- sausage removed from casings if using links
- pecans toasted & chopped (if using)
- eggs cracked in medium bowl
- broth in measuring cub (you will use this in batches)
- Pull out bowl to hold browned chicken wings
- A paper towel lined plate to hold sausage after cooking
- salt with 1/2 tsp measuring spoon
- Grease 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter.
- Heat oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Use tip of paring knife to poke 10 to 15 holes in each wing segment.
- Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer.
- Add wing pieces in single layer and cook until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip wings and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer wings to medium bowl and set aside.
- Return skillet to medium-high heat and add sausage; cook, breaking sausage into 1/2-inch pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate, leaving rendered fat in skillet.
- Heat butter with rendered fat in skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add thyme, sage, and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup of the broth and bring to simmer, using wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan.
- Add vegetable mixture to bowl with dried bread and toss to combine.
- Whisk eggs, remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and any accumulated juices from wings until combined.
- Add egg/broth mixture, cherries, pecans, and sausage to bread mixture and gently toss to combine; transfer to greased baking dish. Arrange wings on top of stuffing, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place baking dish on rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake on lower-middle rack until thickest part of wings registers 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 60 to 75 minutes. Remove foil and transfer wings to dinner plate to reserve for another use. Using fork, gently fluff stuffing. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: If you’re traveling with stuffing, make sure host has room to bake for the full 60-75 minutes, otherwise, bake for about 45 minutes at home and reheat for another 15-20 minutes in host’s oven while the turkey rests.
- Use store-bought bread cubes and skip step #1
- Make entire stuffing ahead of time and bake on Thanksgiving.
- Omit pecans and cherries
recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen and provided for you by your friends at crunchtimefood.com