Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stellar Stuffing--You Can Do It!

For those of you who have gotten some strange blog posts delivered to your inbox lately, I apologize. I have had a couple of blog issues lately. This post is the one that was supposed to go out today! Enjoy!

Thanksgiving is getting so close, you can almost smell it! :) I am so excited! As someone who likes to cook, I am eager to get going and start putting together this absolutely amazing meal.

Last week, we talked about how to make that turkey. Easy peasy, right? The stuffing is simple, too! Today, let's talk about how to make great stuffing from scratch. If you have never done this before, no worries. Making this important part of the Thanksgiving meal is a no-stress deal.

I told you last week, that I am really about straightforward food. If you want cranberries in your stuffing... or even sausage... you go ahead. For me, I love stuffing... good, old-fashioned stuffing. Nothing fancy, nothing tricky, nothing unusual. But feel free to do what works for you.

So, what do you need?

-A pot with water and the neck, heart, etc... you found in your turkey
-Lots of bread
-A bag of stuffing (I like Pepperidge Farm)
-Salt and Pepper
-A can or two of broth

I start the day before Thanksgiving. The process takes a bit of time but is totally worth it. I usually have a selection of bread... some wheat, some white, some "stuffing" bread. I clear the island in my kitchen, cut the bread into cubes and lay it on the island to dry. I like some of the cubes to be toasted, as well. Some of the bread is then put into a pan and popped into the oven until it browns slightly. Once that is done, I put it back on the island to keep drying.

Stuffing needs to be flavored and the taste that makes you think about poultry is sage. So, with the stuffing still on the island, I sprinkle dried sage all over it. I add salt and pepper... and if I have poultry seasoning (which also has sage in it) I will sprinkle that over the cubes, too.

Still on Wednesday, I will cut a bunch of celery and a good-sized onion. I bag these and put them into the fridge to be ready on Thanksgiving morning.

When I wake up on Thursday, it is time to put the whole deal together. In the turkey blog post, we talked about putting all those parts you found inside your turkey into a pot of water. Start by putting this on the stove and simmering it gently. I add salt, pepper and a bunch of sage. (I use powdered, not fresh... but you could use either.) Let this is cook away. You are creating a broth to be used to make your stuffing.

While that simmers, I put all my bread cubes into a huge bowl. I always have too much bread... though I would rather have too much than too little. I add one package of Pepperidge Farm prepared stuffing to this mix. I have not always done it this way, but their stuffing is very good and adds a firmness to my homemade mix. To this bowl, I add most of the onion and at least two big handfuls of celery. (I would love to give you amounts... but I don't cook that way. Look at it while you put it together... if you don't see enough of anything, add more. Stuffing is very forgiving!)

Once the turkey parts have cooked through in the water on the stove, it is time to put the stuffing together. It can be helpful to have a can or two of broth on hand. (If you find canned turkey broth, get bunches!) Now, start adding the broth you have in the pot on the stove to the bowl of bread. Stir it up and then add more. Keep doing this until your stuffing starts to come together. I don't want stuffing that is dripping wet... just moist throughout. If you run out of broth from the pot on the stove, keep going with canned broth. The bread will start to fall apart a bit and it will begin to look like stuffing. Take a minute to smell your mix. Does it smell like stuffing? Toy with your seasonings a bit... but most likely, if it still smells like bread, you need more sage. I am careful with salt... this is easily added to taste when the stuffing is served.

So, what do you do with it? That is totally up to you! I like to have stuffing in my turkey and stuffing that is cooked separately. If you choose to stuff the turkey, remember to extend your roasting time and be SURE the stuffing is hot enough before removing the bird from the oven. Because you used real broth from real turkey parts, it must be cooked through. Also, remember to stuff both cavities in your turkey. The neck cavity is my favorite stuffing of all! (I stuff the bird while it is in the roasting pan and tuck the skin under the bird to keep it in.)

The stuffing in a pan is actually called "dressing"... but I call it all stuffing, anyway! :) For that pan, I put stuffing in, smooth it across the top and bake it in the oven until it is hot through and through. You will know it is done when it is 165 degrees in the center. (Remember how I told you that thermometer would come in handy?) When the stuffing is starting to get close to that temperature, I will often put a bit of butter on the top. This helps to create that crispy top on your dressing. I don't do that to the stuffing in a turkey because there is enough "fat" from the turkey to do the same thing.

So, that's all there is to it! If you can cube bread, you can make your own homemade stuffing. Feeling creative? There are millions of recipes that add other ingredients to this tried and true mix. You can try cranberries, clams, sausage, eggs... the list is endless!

Last year, my family made stuffing together. My kids and I stood around the island in the kitchen and diced bread and talked and laughed... Sitting down around our Thanksgiving table meant something new to us, last year. Creating the meal together created far more than food. We made memories, my family and I.

And that is something that lasts far longer than the dinner we shared...

Blessings on your day.

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