The very best holiday meals are those where friends and family gather together and everyone brings a dish. These lovingly-prepared contributions compose a complete meal that would otherwise be a lot of work for one poor soul, and represent a community effort where all can benefit, i.e. feast!
This week, a few of my food blogging friends and I are doing just that: we’re throwing a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party and you’re invited. The talented Liz brought us together and we promise to make you hungry each and every day as this progressive meal unfolds all week long. Of course, we hope to inspire you as well.
(Aren’t I lucky? Although we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, I couldn’t turn down this dinner invitation from such a fun bunch of girls, so I’m helping myself to seconds on dressing as we speak.)
Shaina and I are collaborating today to bring you the main feature: the turkey and stuffing. Although we’re both theoretically attending the dinner, we’re cooking our contributions separately because we both feel pretty strongly about how the bird and the dressing go together. Ideally, not at all.
To Stuff or Not to Stuff?
That is the question, and it’s a good one. Shaina and I agree than stuffing on the side is the way to go – for many reasons.
Why do we choose NOT to stuff our turkeys?
- Cooking time is significantly shorter with an un-stuffed turkey. Less oven time means more available space for baking off pies and side dishes or simply warming plates. A shorter roasting time for the turkey is also ‘greener’.
- There is a risk of salmonella poisoning as the stuffing comes in direct contact with the raw bird.
- Cooking the stuffing to the correct temperature to kill the salmonella (170°F) nearly always results in an overcooked turkey.
- Stuffing that is baked in a turkey tends to get soggy, where if it is baked separately, it gets a lovely crunchy top, while remaining moist enough underneath. In the recipe below, guests are always delighted with the crispy bread bits on top of the stuffing.
Stuffing or Dressing? To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.
Some may argue that there is a difference between stuffing and dressing, and they do have a point. It makes sense that a ‘Stuffing’ would be the accompaniment that is baked inside the turkey, ie ‘stuffed’ and that ‘dressing’ would be the same components, but baked on their own in a casserole.
In most settings though, the terms are used interchangeably, and mean the exact same thing; so call it whatever you like. The most important thing isn’t using the correct term to define stuffing, what’s important is that it tastes absolutely delicious.
Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits and Herbs
When I was growing up, my mother – always the health conscious one – made wild rice stuffing. Although I loved it in its own special way, I looked forward to the day when I could make my own bread stuffing. I adore pairing fruit with poultry so it’s no surprise my version of bread stuffing is packed with apples, cranberries and even raisins on occasion.
Late autumn is when I am fiercely trying to use up all my herbs before the frost hits them, so fresh herbs are a natural addition to the stuffing. Fresh thyme and parsley from my small herb garden certainly work their magic in this dish, while fresh apples from our local orchards sweetened up this stuffing.
Recipe: Aimée’s Fruit & Herb Stuffing
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 2 cups sweet onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries, or raisins, or both
- 1 large loaf of crusty Italian-style bread, cubed (about 8 cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried savory, ground
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups chopped apple
- 1 cup turkey stock or chicken stock
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
1. Plump cranberries and raisins in hot water for about ten minutes. Drain and reserve.
2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add onions and celery. Stirring often, sweat them for about five minutes.
3. Add thyme, savory, salt and pepper and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. Add chopped apples and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
5. Pour turkey stock over stuffing and mix well to combine. Butter an ovenproof dish and pack stuffing into it. (At this point, you may refrigerate the stuffing, well wrapped, for up to a day before proceeding.)
6. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve hot.
This basic bread stuffing recipe can be customized to taste. For example, for a more Christmas-like dinner, try replacing the Italian loaf with a spiced Pannetone and use dried cherries instead of dried cranberries.
- Herb Bread
- Multi-Grain Bread
- Dried apricots
- Dried cherries
Be sure to visit Food for My Family for Shaina’s Mustard-Crusted Turkey recipe! I’ll be updating this post all week long as the others contribute their dishes to our progressive dinner. Stay tuned!
Does you family have a traditional stuffing recipe?