As long as we been roasting birds such as chicken or turkey for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or any other special occasion, there has been a debate about baking the stuffing on its own or inside the bird. I do both. My mom always stuffed the bird, so I followed her lead. And I did this for many years, but I started to do both after a Christmas dinner with my stuffing mad niece!!!
It does a cook's heart good to see someone tuck in and enjoy what you have made for them. She was only 4 and boy could she pack away dressing - it was a huge hit with her, and when I was packaging up things for them to take home to enjoy as leftovers, she kept asking "Aunty, did you give us stuffing for ME to eat?" I did indeed, but the next year I remembered that we had very little left. I found a slow cooker recipe in my Pillsbury Cookbook that I liked because it was very close to the version I made that went inside the bird. And to tell you the truth I always thought cooking the stuffing inside the bird made it more flavourful, but the slow cooker dressing was every bit as good!
I spent Thanksgiving this year in Fernie B.C. with my cousin J and her family. We had two kinds of stuffing....and I laughed when I realized she and I both made the same slow cooker stuffing, but she also had a baked one that featured sweet potato and pecans and was yummy too.
I won't be making stuffing this year at all, and I am hundreds of miles away from family to cook for. But the Beau and I will be in Vegas and he assures me there will be a fantastic Christmas meal there for the two of us. But I would like to share with you my mom's recipe and a few others (including the slow cooker stuffing recipe that's a hit with me and J and our families), with a word of advice...some of these recipes call for both butter and for sausage. If I am using sausage, I use the drippings from the sausage and skip the butter. But I know others will drain the fat from the sausage, wipe out the pan and then use the butter as called for - saying the flavour from the butter adds an extra oomph in the taste of the stuffing. Me, I am fine without it and the additional calories.
1 pound mild breakfast sausage (we always bought a chubb rather than links)
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped celery, including the leaves (get extra leaves if you can)
10 to 12 cups stale dry white bread, cubed** (I like to mix white and brown bread cubes)
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped fine or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (1 tbsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp black pepper
up to 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth (or more)
1 to 2 eggs
turkey giblets (heart, gizzard...NO liver) ground in a meat grinder or chopped in a food processor
** Mom used to dry out bread in the oven...but if you prefer to use fresh soft bread, by all means do so
Cook the sausage in a large non stick pan over medium heat, breaking it up and crumbling it into [ea sized or smaller particles. Add the giblets and cook until meat is cooked through and sausage is no longer pink. Add the celery, onion, sage, poultry seasoning and pepper. Cook until the celery and onion are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Get out the biggest stainless steel mixing bowl you have....you will need it. Toss the bread crumbs with the sausage/celery/onion/herb mixture. Take one cup of broth and beat an egg into it. Work this egg/broth mixture into the bread cube mixture with your hands but be prepared....it's hot. If stuffing seems dry or not really holding together you can add another egg if necessary and another 1/2 cup of broth. What do you do not want is a really wet stuffing....it will be very soggy if you stuff the bird. You just want it moist enough to hold together but not mushy. Sprinkle the salt on top and mix it in. You can stuff a 20 pound bird with this stuffing, but you can also put it in a buttered casserole dish, and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes until it's hot and cooked through and nicely browned on top.
This makes about 16 cups of dressing, at around 400 calories each one cup serving size.
Slow Cooker Dressing for Madi
1 cup butter
2 large onions, diced
2 cups chopped celery (include the leaves, they add flavour)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
12 to 13 cups slightly dry bread cubes
1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp ground marjoram
2 to 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 eggs, beaten
Melt butter in a large skillet and saute, onion, celery, parsley and mushrooms. Pour over the bread cubes in a very large mixing bowl. Add seasonings and toss well. Pour in enough broth to moisten, add beaten eggs and mix well. Pack lightly into a lightly greased slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour, then reduce to LOW and cook from 4 to 7 hours longer.
** If I have giblets, I chop them up fine and cook with the veggies. I
This makes about 16 cups of stuffing, at about 325 calories a serving. By the way, you can cook sausage and crumble it into this dressing as well.
When I married my husband (I guess I should say former husband) I inherited a daughter-in-law who didn't like to eat meat, not even turkey. So my usual sausage based stuffing needed to be replaced one Christmas by an alternative. She did like bacon, always eating it when I made it for breakfast. I was kind of annoyed by her demands for a dressing that had no sausage or giblets in it, and was "healthy." She loved my spinach/bacon quiche, so I thought I would give her a similar stuffing. To my surprise, it was a surprisingly big hit with everyone, even the kids:
Spinach Bacon & Cashew Dressing
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bag (8 ounces/227 grams) fresh spinach, trimmed
7 cups cubed sourdough bread (1 loaf)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cashews
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cups whipping cream
In skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towel-lined plate. Fry the onion, sage in the bacon drippings until onion is very soft and just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add spinach, in batches, stirring until wilted. Scrape into large bowl. Add the bread and cashews to the the bowl. In small bowl, whisk together the stock, cream, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over bread mixture and toss to coat. Scrape it into a 13 x 9 glass baking dish - smooth out top. Cover and refrigerate until evenly soaked through, at least 1 hour - doing this the night before is best (it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours). Bake in a 400 degree oven, covered for 20 minuted, then uncover and bake until crusty and knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about another 20 minutes. This can be cut into 8 good sized squares at about 439 calories each. But 12 smaller squares work out to about 300 calories each.
And now , my version of the stuffing J. made this Thanksgiving:
Sweet Potato Cranberry Stuffing
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, diced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
8 cups of cubed bread (french, regular white, sourdough, all good choices)
1 3/4 cups low or no sodium chicken broth
1 cup of walnut or pecan pieces, chopped,
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, set aside. Place bread cubes in large mixing bowl, and set aside. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a large heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the potatoes and cook until they are soft and the onion is browned, about 20 minutes. Add maple syrup, cranberries, and 2 tbsp of water and cook until cranberries plump, about 3 minutes. Add sage, salt and pepper, cook one minute more.
Pour this mixture over the bread cubes in the bowl and toss together with the broth. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, dot with remaining butter and scatter nut pieces over the top. Bake until heated through and top is golden, about 30 to 4 minutes.
Serves 12, each serving is approximately 343 calories each.
Lastly a dark and aromatic stuffing:
Pumpernickel/Rye Cranberry Dressing
1 pound breakfast sausage, skin removed (sweet italian sausage works too)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery, including leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh chopped sage (1 tsp dried if you have no fresh)
1 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme (1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary (1 tsp dried)
2 tsp celery seeds (optional and I have never used them)
1 pinch grated nutmeg (optional again)
1 pinch ground cloves (also optional)
1 tsp salt
10 to 12 cups of a mix of rye and pumpernickel bread, lightly toasted and cubed
1 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth or white wine (or water)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sausage, onion, celery, garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary, celery seeds, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Saute until the sausage is no longer pink and onion is soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not drain. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, toss the sauteed ingredients with the bread cubes and cranberries or cherries. Season with pepper and pour the broth over it, tossing to distribute the broth through the stuffing mixture.
Stuff the bird with this mixture or place in a buttered casserole dish, covered, and bake 45 minutes to one hour. For a golden brown top and some crunchiness, bake uncovered for the last 15 minutes.
This will make 14 cups of stuffing, at 307 calories each one cup serving.