BY CELESTE GRACEY | Photos by Ryan Dearth
It’s not about the bird, it’s what you stuff it with.
Skip the cardboard boxes of pre-seasoned bread cubes, and try making the Thanksgiving favorite from scratch this year.
Thanksgiving is about the sides, at least for Chef Carol Dearth, from the Bellevue-based cooking school, Sizzleworks. She offered a few recipes and several tips.
For those who swear by stuffing cooked inside the turkey, make sure it gets to 160 degrees or it could make your guests ill.
Often by the time the stuffing is done, the bird has been overcooked, so Dearth makes her stuffing in a casserole dish instead. It also makes the dressing fluffier with a crispy top.
For those who like the pressed dense stuffing that comes from inside the turkey’s juicy bosom, that texture can be replicated in a casserole dish by mixing in a raw egg before baking.
To keep the bird flavorful, stuff it with onion, herbs or a lemon that has been pierced with a meat fork. Rub the inside cavity with pepper and salt. Just don’t eat any of the seasonings, unless they get to 160 degrees.
Most stuffings are made with either rice or bread as a base. The South tends to like using corn bread too, Dearth says.
It’s Thanksgiving, so splurge a little on a fresh artisan loaf of bread. Cut the loaf into cubes and let them dry over night on a cookie sheet or use an oven to speed up the process.
The stock is also an important ingredient. Making it from scratch is easy and virtually free. Just use the giblets the turkey comes with.
Vegetarians seeking to celebrate can easily fill a squash with the stuffing as a substitute to a turkey. Try a small pumpkin or a colorful acorn squash.
Dearth plans to post several more Thanksgiving recipes on her blog, www.thesizzleworks.com/blog.
CLASSIC BREAD STUFFING
3 tbsp olive oil
1 – 2-pound loaf of good quality sourdough bread. Cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 pounds of Italian sweet or hot sausage, casing removed (optional)
2 cups chopped onions, medium dice
4 stalks celery, medium dice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp poultry seasoning, or 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano and basil
Fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
1 1/2 cup chicken stock heated + about 1 cup extra for moistening stuffing before baking
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place bread cubes on two ungreased baking sheets. Bake until cubes are dry but not hard, turning occasionally.
Heat olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add sausage and cook through, breaking up with the back of the fork. Cook until pink is gone. Add onions, celery, garlic, poultry seasoning (add dry seasoning here, or fresh herbs with the stock) and 1/2 teaspoon salt; saute until onions and celery are soft. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in bread cubes. Toss to blend, add fresh herbs if using, and then add stock; season with salt and pepper.
To bake separately, generously butter a 13×9 inch-baking dish. Add enough extra stock to stuffing to moisten. Transfer stuffing to baking dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes longer. Serves 12.
1 cup melted butter (1 stick)
2-4 teaspoons pesto
4 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 pound cooked crab (optional)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable stock
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Stir pesto into the melted butter; set aside.
Combine bread crumbs, onion, crab, peppers, parsley, mustard, Worchestershire sauce, lemon juice and Tabasco. Drizzle stock over top, toss to combine. Then drizzle butter/pesto mixture over and fold in. Transfer mixture to a shallow baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Serves 6-8.
WILD RICE STUFFING WITH PEARS, CRANBERRIES AND TOASTED HAZELNUTS
2 cups vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup wild rice blend
2 tablespoons butter
2 fresh ripe pears, cut into dice
1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 small rib celery, finely diced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
large pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons minced chives
In medium saucepan, bring stock to boil. Add rice blend; return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is fully cooked, 40 to 45 minutes. Turn rice into medium heat-proof bowl; fluff with fork.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pears and toss to coat with the butter. Cook slowly, until the pears begin to brown. Add hazelnuts, toss and stir, toasting them until they become fragrant and nutty. Then add shallots, celery, thyme and salt; saute until softened, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and fold into rice, with the cranberries and chives. Keep warm until serving time, or cool and use as stuffing for fowl. Garnish with additional minced chives.
Makes about 3 cups stuffing.