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Help! Need a stuffing recipe

Last year for Thanksgiving I made a pork sausage w/ walnuts apple stuffing recipe. It was a flop so I need help. Does anyone have a fairly simple recipe. I'm considering something with cornbread or with sausage or both... at this point I just need something good to redeem myself from last year. Thanks!

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  1. Cut a couple of loaves of sourdough bread into cubes. Spread the cubes on one or two baking sheets and put them in a low (225 - 250) oven until they are all dried out. You can do this way in advance; store the dried cubes in plastic bags, no need to refrigerate.

    Saute diced onion and celery in butter. Add Italian sausage and let it brown a little. (I use turkey Italian sausage, but pork is fine -- perhaps better, though fattier.) I give no amounts for these things, because you should use however much you like in your stuffing/dressing.

    Put the dried bread cubes in a big plastic bag -- by which I mean the kind of bag with which you might line a kitchen trash can. Put that bag inside another identical bag. Add the onion/celery/sausage to the cubes in the bag. Add a couple or 3 of cans of sliced water chestnuts. Add some raisins. Add salt and pepper and sage (fresh sage if you live in a part of the west where you can get it) -- not too much to start with, because once those things are in there you can't get them out. Add turkey or chicken stock, twist the bags closed at the top, and shake-shake-shake. Check to see how moist the cubes are; you want them uniformly moistened, but not soaking. If they are not moist enough, add more stock and shake-shake-shake some more. Add more sage, salt, and/or pepper if you think it's necessary, but I'd advise going easy on the salt.

    Stuff the turkey with some of the mixture. Take the rest and put it in a big bowl. Add one or two beaten eggs. Put it in some kind of greased casserole, dot the top with butter, and cook it for an hour -- so it comes out of the oven right around the same time you're serving dinner. This is "dressing"; the substance you cooked inside the turkey is "stuffing." They are different, so serve them both.

    1. I did the Sage, Sausage and Apple Dressing from How to boil water from the food network. I got rave reviews and everyone said to use this recipe for next year.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Kari

        Seconded. I brought this recipe to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner last year and out of the three dressings served it was voted the clear winner.

      2. Was it just a combination of flavors that didn't work, or was it a problem with texture? Too many cornbread dressings come out like corn-crumbs in liquid, a sort of gruel. I think too many people are starting with lousy cornbread or bagged stuffing mix and then throwing everything together at once instead of blending gradually and then letting the crumbs absorb the moisture a little at a time. I also think it helps a lot to have a good portion of good white bread crumbs in there too, as much as 50%.

        I'd love to be precise, but as I never really measure this I'll just tell you how I do it: for a good plain bread dressing, I start with about a loaf's worth of chopped-up firm stale bread - La Brea Rosemary & Olive Oil bread is an excellent choice for this, or any other quasi-artisanal country-style loaf. It should be good and dry but not dessicated. Chop one large yellow or white onion fine, do the same to three stalks of celery, then melt about half a stick of butter in a big pan and cook the veges gently in that until the onion is soft, stirring in a small handful of kosher salt, a big multi-finger pinch of whatever herbs you favor - I like herbes de Provence plus a bit of sage - and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. Then stir in the breadcrumbs, mixing it all up thoroughly, and let it all heat through. Now pour hot broth over all, a cup or less at a time, stirring it in well between applications, until it's all moist enough to mold into a wad but not at all soupy. Adjust the seasoning at this point, then scrape into a mixing bowl and beat two eggs into it. (I will taste after adding the raw egg, but it's frowned upon by the worry-warts.)

        That's the basic. You can add crumbled bacon or chopped smoked sausage; you can cook crumbled bulk sausage before cooking the vegetables and use the fat instead of some of the butter; you can add a pint of chopped oysters and use the juice to replace some broth; you can substitute crumbled cornbread for half or more of the breadcrumbs - to which sausage, chopped tart apple and crumbled cooked chestnuts will be added to mine this year; you can add sautéed mushrooms. You can also vary the relative amounts of onion and/or celery, or any other ingredient, just as long as everything blends together and it isn't soupy.

        I was always a stalwart in-the-bird stuffer - I was raised with that, and my grandma always had one turkey stuffed with plain dressing and one with oyster - but now I use just a cup or two stuffed under the breast skin to flavor and insulate the white meat so that it cooks at about the same rate as the dark. The rest goes in a buttered baking dish and is cooked separately. The best reason for this is that the carcass gets broken up and used for broth, and the least amount of starch in the broth will cloud it and make it susceptible to spoilage. It's almost impossible, I've found, to wash every little bit of clinging stuffing out of a rib cage, and I'm washing out valuable bits of flavorful goo in the process besides.

        1. Our family, tried-and-true, never fail dressing:

          Mamer’s Dressing
          For about a 12 pound bird…

          4 cups dried white bread crumbs
          8 cups crumbled cornbread
          1 cup butter
          ¾ cup finely chopped onion
          1 ½ cups chopped celery, stalks and leaves
          3 teaspoons salt
          1 teaspoon pepper
          3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
          2 teaspoons sage
          6 or so cups of chicken (or turkey) broth

          In heavy skillet melt butter and saute onion and celery until transluscent. Add seasonings. Throw about 2-3 cups of the crumbs into the vegetables, and mix well, then add this mixture back to the rest of the crumbs and mix well again. Add broth until about the consistency of cake or cornbread batter. Bake 1 hour with turkey (about 350-375 degrees.) I bake in a separate, greased 9x13 pan.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DLAOKC

            This is a classic Southern recipe that's been made in my family for at least three generations. Do not use a cornbread mix or packaged bread cubes. A 9' skillet of cornbread is about 8 cups -- use bacon grease and buttermilk to make the cornbread. Stale bread torn to bits can be used or even better stale biscuits. I also make a semi-homemade broth by adding turkey wings and giblets to store bought chicken broth and simmering them together. *make plenty of broth and use some to make your gravy.) Sometimes I add part of the wing meat to the dressing. Moisture is a big key to the recipe as noted above -- you want it pretty soupy. And I add the herbs by the tablespoon, as we like a good sage flavor. (Look at the ingredients on the poultry seasoning bottle -- sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, black pepper -- and grind your own in proportions you like.) Usually I roast the turkey first, and as it's resting, cook the dressing in the oven at 425 for about 45 minutes or until the dressing is set in the middle. Goodness, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Hope you try this out!

            1. re: TNExplorer

              My fave recipe for the cornbread is Cresent Dragonwagon's "Skillet Sizzled Buttermilk Cornbread."

          2. I make the Burt Greene stuffing using cornbread (packaged Arnolds) with sausage (I've recently decided breakfast sausage is superior to Italian) and mushrooms, vermouth is one of the moisteners. If that sounds interesting, I'll give you the whole thing.

            3 Replies
              1. re: dmfnole

                This was an instant family heirloom!

                1 bag pre-made stuffing (I like Arnold's Cornbread)
                1 lb breakfast sausage
                1 cup chicken/turkey broth (unless you're cooking it in the bird, which I don't)
                1/2 cup dry vermouth
                1 cup chopped celery
                1 cup chopped mushrooms
                1 cup chopped onions (I occasionally use leeks)
                2 lightly beaten eggs
                1/2 cup cream
                1 stick butter

                Brown sausage. Saute mushroom, celery and onions in stick of butter. Add all of this to stuffing mix, then add vermouth and broth, stir, then add eggs and cream, and toss lightly.

                I bake it in the oven for 20-30 minutes after the bird comes out.

                1. re: coll

                  The last year or two I've ditched the Arnolds stuffing mix, and instead making a pan of Jiffy cornbread plus some old challah bread which I toast a bit, then chop roughly. Also getting into fennel instead of celery and shallots in addition the the onions/leeks. I can never leave well enough alone!

            1. As I mentioned in another thread, I've been making this cornbread sausage stuffing with apples and pecans from "The Silver Palate" for years, and it's delicious:

              4 Replies
              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Me too. And my wife keeps volunteering me as the turkey cooking/turkey stuffin' expert!

                As coll says above, breakfast sausage with sage is it.

                1. re: yayadave

                  Jimmy Dean sage sausage roll, I'm afraid to make any changes there. It's perfection.

                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                  will it work omitting sausage? I have guests that don't eat it. Should I do anything different? Or am I better off leaving it & easy for them to pick out

                  1. re: pamd

                    People who won't eat sausage generally don't like to have it mixed with their food, and it crumbles down into really small pieces that are hard to pick out. I've made it without the sausage (when some family members were vegetarian -- thank goodness they've all given that up!), and it's still very good -- the pecans give it a richness that helps make up for the lack of meat. Or, you could try a vegetarian sausage -- there are some pretty decent ones out there these days. If you do omit the sausage, taste it and see if it needs a bit more sage or other seasoning.

                3. Thank you to all! It looks like I'm off to a better start than last year.
                  Will - I do thing it was the texture maybe the cornbread - all I know is that everyone ate everything else but the stuffing went untouched - talk about a ego killer - but I've recovered and am ready to tackle it again this year - again thanks to everyone!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dmfnole

                    At least you learned something. We have a friend who is a by-the-book cook, and sometimes that works and sometimes not. Problem is she often can't TELL when it doesn't work, as she pays so little attention to what she eats...and she makes the same damn gruel-like cornbread stuffing year after year. Bless her heart...

                  2. The big tip I found out years ago is NOT to stuff the turkey but make the stuffing in a separate casserole dish. Ours is a simple celery mushroom bread dressing. This is for 13X9 dish - I take 2 loaves of sourdough, ciabbata or some kind of bread with character, cut it in 1 in cubes and let it air dry overnight. Saute 2 very large chopped yellow onions in EVOO, 1 lb. sliced mushrooms and 3 ribs chopped celery till softened, do not brown. Combine dry bread cubes with veggies, pour 1 stick melted butter, 4 cups chicken stock (preferably low salt homemade), salt, pepper, 2 T chopped fresh sage, 2 T poultry seasoning, mix well. Mixture should be wet but not sopping. Place in greased pan, bake at 350 for 45 - 60 min. Baste with drippings from turkey every 20 min. Variation - add 2 cups sauteed breakfast sausage or 1 cup roasted cooled chopped chestnuts or 2 cups cornbread.

                    1. This is a very long response but it contains a whole lot of details about method, in addition to the recipe itself. I wrote this in 2002, shortly after my mother died, and I was trying to record her recipes for well... posterity I guess. So I'll share it here now. :) This stuffing is very different from what I know a lot of folks are used to, and it comes out sort of a bread pudding texture, but it's what I grew up on, and I love it. ;) Also, you can add italian or sage sausage to this easily (at the same step you'd add the veggies, just cook the veggies with the sausage), to make it a nice spicy sausage stuffing. I make two batches, one with sausage, one without, now.

                      Like so many other mothers, mine didn't really follow a recipe for her signature dishes. She taught me how things should sound, feel, or smell to get the right end product. This stuffing was a fixture at our thanksgivings. Mom made two stuffings: oyster, and sage and onion. I hated oyster, so I never learned to make it, but we all loved the sage and
                      onion. From the time I was 12 on we lived too far from my aunts and uncles to celebrate with them, so we had a small family thanksgiving that was just us (Mom, Dad, brother, and me).

                      We always stuffed the large cavity with sage and onion, the small one with oyster. Until this last year, I did that, too. But this year (2002) Alton Brown convinced me that my turkey would be much better if I baked the stuffing outside the turkey (and now I'm a believer). It worked fine and I simply made up some of the moisture in the stuffing with turkey broth made from turkey base (bought from www.redibase.com). It was just as flavourful.

                      There are shortcuts you can take with this recipe that won't significantly impact the end product, and I'll note those. Also, you can scale this recipe down so it doesn't make nearly so much with little problem.

                      Mom's Sage and Onion Dressing

                      To stuff a 15 to 19 pound bird
                      Two or three loaves of plain white bread (shortcut ingredient: two bags of plain white bread cubes, unseasoned or preseasoned with sage


                      2 large white onions (white onions is important for the strength of the flavour, if you only have yellow, use more onion), one finely minced, one coarsely chopped

                      4 large stalks celery (these can be either thinly sliced or finely minced, depending on how your family feels about biting into celery bits, but don't leave it out completely, it is part of what completes the flavour, I tend to mince mine because my husband doesn't like celery, my mother liked having the celery bits recognizable)

                      A handful of celery leaves finely minced

                      1 pound butter (doesn't matter if it is salted or unsalted, though if you use unsalted you'll want to add a little more salt as you mix)

                      1 cup turkey broth (I use redibase turkey base for this, it's fantastic. Though, if you're going to be baking this inside the bird, just leave out this ingredient, you'll just increase the amount of milk you use to make up the moisture)

                      12 eggs, well beaten (you can reduce the fat in this recipe significantly by using egg substitute. It really doesn't hurt the end product)

                      Roughly half a gallon of milk (depends on the dryness of the bread) I use skim because that's what I have around the house. Again, this reduces the fat content without harming the recipe. If the only fat in this dish is from the butter, then it's actually not that bad, overall. :)

                      Herbs for seasoning poultry (usually): Sage, Thyme, Parsley (these can be fresh, but I prefer dried because I'm better able to predict the outcome of the stuffing based on the smell of the herbs when I'm mixing it)


                      At least two days before:
                      Lay out the bread in single layers on racks or cookie sheets and allow to dry out completely. Be sure to turn the slices over regularly to ensure they are totally dried out, if you're not using racks. This is a lot of bread to have laying around, though. This is where the pre-made cubes come in. No bread laying around, no prep done days in advance, no chance the cat's going to wander across exposed slices of bread. :) If you use the pre-made cubes, just skip this step. I've never noticed a significant change in the flavour and they are much easier to work with. :)

                      The day before, or the morning of the feast:
                      Take off any rings or bracelets or watches that you're wearing and wash your hands thoroughly (make sure your nails are clean too) and roll up your sleeves (if you have 'em).

                      Tear up/crush the bread slices into roughly 1/2 inch bits (or dump the bread cubes) into a huge bowl with plenty of room for getting your hands in there and mixing up the stuffing. Getting crumbs in the bowl are a part of this process, so don't worry about any tiny bits you may end up with.

                      Add the herbs, salt, and pepper to the bread and toss to coat the bread with the herbs fairly evenly. Use more sage than you do thyme or parsley. You should be able to smell the sage, but not the thyme or parsley, and it shouldn't be overwhelming. You should be able to smell the sage when you lean over so that your nose is about three inches from the bread and sniff. I usually add enough pepper so I can just barely smell it, too (being sure to turn away when I sneeze :). The taste of the herbs intensifies when you bake the stuffing, so you don't want to overdo them. The good thing about this method of seasoning is that if you use your nose as the measure, then the end product will taste right to you, because it was your nose that determined the right amount in the first place. :) But it's also where you can get in a little trouble. If you have a cold, or your sense of smell isn't as keen as the other people you're feeding, you can put too much sage in the stuffing, and it will overwhelm all the other flavours. If you're feeding several people, you can also have them sniff at the bowl and sorta reach a middle ground on the seasoning, so that it's not overwhelming anyone (if it really matters, that is).

                      Set the bowl aside for now.

                      In a frying/sauteeing pan, melt the butter. Add the coarsely chopped onion to the butter and saute briefly to start softening. Add the celery, finely minced onion, and minced celery tops. Saute until all vegetables are soft, and well mixed.

                      Pour the vegetables and butter over the bread, then mix well, distributing the veggies throughout the stuffing and evenly coating the bread with the butter. Pour the eggs over the bread and mix well, again, evenly coating the bread as much as possible. It's important that you do these two steps fairly quickly once you've poured in the ingredients so you don't get "eggy" patches or "buttery" ones. Even distribution is important because the bread is going to soak up these liquids quickly. If you are using
                      turkey broth, then this is the point you'd add it, again, mixing quickly to evenly distribute. Just a note here, when you add these ingredients, you're going to be getting strong wafts of smells from the stuffing, that's why you seasoned it before this step, so you could gauge the amounts more accurately without warm moisture changing the smell. :)

                      Now you're ready to start adding milk. Add three cups of milk and use your hands to incorporate it into the bread. This step is where you will run into the difference between using sliced bread and pre-made bread cubes. The sliced bread absorbs the milk more readily, usually takes a little less milk, and mixes up faster. Though the bread cubes are a little more work on this step, they're still faster to work with overall. Work the milk into the bread with your hands and be sure to mix up the bits that tend to drop to the bottom. You can use a spoon for this, but the texture of the stuffing is important, and you can't feel it through the spoon.

                      Keep mixing in milk, about one cup or a bit less at a time, until the stuffing is sticking together and all the bread has been softened by the liquids. If you're using pre-made cubes, be sure that you don't have any largish "hard" bits of bread. It should all be very soft, moist (almost wet but not quite, there should not be any puddles of milk and it should not drip if you pick some up in your hand and hold it over the bowl with your
                      fingers spread), and sorta sticky. It should hold together and sound moist when you pull your hand through it (feeling for lumps of unmoistened bread).

                      At this point you can either stuff your bird with the dressing and pop it in the oven, put the stuffing in a baking dish (well, it's enough to fill several baking dishes) sprayed with non-stick spray and bake it, or store it, covered, in the fridge for use later. Do not let it sit out on the counter for very long.

                      I usually put some in a 13X9 baking dish, and some in a 2 quart casserole and bake them at 350 degrees. The 13x9 dishes tend to bake faster because they're shallower, and the stuffing dries out a little more (not in a bad way, but you have to watch it because it can turn into a rock if you let it overcook). The stuffing in the casserole takes longer to bake because it's deeper, but the stuffing is a little more moist in the middle, again, not in a bad way. :)

                      The stuffing from the 13X9 dish tends to be better for use in left over dishes like "Sludge" (torn up chunks of leftover turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and torn up stuffing all heated up together into a stew-like mass). The stuffing from the casserole is better with the main feast. In any case, bake the stuffing until it's got a nice golden crust on top
                      (roughly an hour but start checking at 45 mins, assuming these are the only things in the oven, if there's more in the oven baking, it could take longer). That's usually plenty long enough for the center to be cooked through. It will be very solid and not at all crumbly. You can always check it by spooning out a little from the center to see if it's solid and cooked through. You could also probably use a probe thermometer, I think
                      the right temp is between 170 and 180, but I've never done that, so that might be a little high. That's how high the center of the stuffing needs to be if you're cooking it in the bird, IIRC.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Morganna

                        Thank you. I'm sure I'm not the only one to copy this into my recipe file.

                        1. re: Morganna

                          Wow - thank you so much for sharing your mom's recipe!

                          1. re: dmfnole

                            I hope some other folks give it a go and like it as much as I do :)

                        2. You don't need to dry bread beforehand. You don't need sausage or anything else. What you do need is half a loaf of white bread, half a loaf of wheat bread, and a pan of corn bread. Tear that up into small pieces, and put it in a BIG mixing bowl. Then cut up a good-sized onion and three or four ribs of celery and saute them in half a stick of butter. Dump that into the bowl with the bread and mix up, with some salt and pepper and sage (start with two tablespoons and add more according to your taste). Beat three eggs and pour them in and stir, then add turkey/chicken broth until you have a VERY moist dressing--the bread should be soggy enough that you aren't able to make out distinct pieces of bread. Put it in a large casserole pan (not in the bird) and bake at 350 for an hour to an hour and a half, until a knife stuck in the center comes out clean.

                          This is my grandma's dressing recipe.

                          1. Stuffing is the TG component that I enjoy making the most, and mine usually gets good reviews. Here are the ingredients i'm planning to put in my stuffing this year:

                            cubes of high-quality ciabatta and country batard bread, dried
                            chicken stock, or maybe homemade turkey stock if i have the time
                            dry vermouth
                            dried cranberries
                            dried currants, probably soaked in port
                            apple and pear, sauteed in butter or roasted
                            onion and shallot, chopped small and caramelized
                            fresh sage leaves, possibly fried in butter
                            smaller amounts of fresh rosemary and thyme
                            dried sage
                            pecans, toasted in oven with butter,maple syrup, cayenne, and salt

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: elk

                              Vermouth is the key to my dressing too. And nice to sip while you're throwing it together, I feel like Julia Child!

                            2. The best one I've tasted and made is here, apparently a classic from the 1800s.
                              It uses a lot of fresh herbs which can be hard to find, espec. savory, but if you look around, you'll prob find these ingredients (fresh) locally w/o resorting to dried. It sounds simple, and has no meat, but it gets a ton of raves!!!