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Stuffing/dressing conundrum...

j
jasonq Nov 9, 2010 11:03 AM

Hi all - first post here, so please be gentle. (or not...)

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching I once again contemplate gorging myself on turkey and dressing. Once again though, I dread actually *eating* dressing w/ Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws because my mother-in-law, bless her heart, cannot seem to pull it off. Invariably, the dressing comes out very dark or burnt on the edges, with a ring of usually dried-out overcooked dressing inside, and basically uncooked in the center. Not at all appetizing.

My impulse is to offer to make it myself - she'd almost certainly welcome the reduction in workload, and I'd get something I could eat. However I've never tackled it and wonder what *she* is doing wrong, so as to avoid making the same mistake(s) myself. I know she doesn't know where she's going wrong, as we've discussed this very topic on an occasion or two.

The recipe she uses I'm sure is bog-standard - she's not at all an adventurous cook (she seems afraid of salt, for one thing, and most herbs and spices aren't to be found in her kitchen.) She cooks her dressing in one of those white-speckled black roaster pans that everyone seems to have floating around the kitchen. This strikes me as the problem, but I'm not sure.

In short, anyone have some good dressing recipes they could point me to, or tips for cooking the stuff? I can't afford to screw up the Thanksgiving dressing and have 20 people mad at me.

Thanks!
Jason

  1. TorontoJo Nov 9, 2010 11:22 AM

    Sounds like she is baking the dressing at too high a temperature. Can you ask her what the temp and duration is? And yes, the black roaster pan is likely contributing to the burnt edges. A white corningware-type casserole is a better choice. But regardless of the vessel, baking a large casserole at 375 degree for 45 minutes is more than enough to bake the dressing. If she is going to use the black roaster, I would drop the temp to 350.

    In terms of recipes, what kind of stuffing do you want? A classic herb stuffing? Rice? Corn bread? Sausage, no sausage? Oysters? Lots of options, and there are many threads on the board with recipes -- actually you might want to check some of the threads listed at the bottom of the page for ideas. My bias is for a classic herb stuffing, which I'm happy to share if you'd like the recipe.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TorontoJo
      j
      jasonq Nov 9, 2010 12:04 PM

      My bias (and that of the people I'd be feeding) is towards the classic bread-based herb stuffing as well. I'll have to ask her what temp/duration she bakes at. Thanks for the reminder about checking here for recipes - I've been doing the internet long enough you think it'd have occurred to me. : )

      Jason

    2. Cherylptw Nov 9, 2010 11:37 AM

      I make mine in the black roaster of which you speak and have never burned it in all the years I've been making it (nearly 30). The problem is not the roaster; it doesn't matter what you bake it in, it matters what the temperature is, whether it has enough moisture and whether it's covered or not. I bake mine at 350F. degrees always.

      Because I've been doing nearly the same recipe forever, I don't measure so I don't have a recipe, per se....mine is the cornbread type and I bake a 8 inch pan of regular cornbread to mix with diced french bread. I saute onions, celery and sometimes mushrooms to add along with chicken or turkey stock made from the neck, giblet and liver of the turkey, adding just enough liquid to moisten the mix and some herbs like sage & thyme, salt and pepper. Sometimes I'll add precooked & ground sausage or diced apples. Depending on how much I'm making, I'll bake it for 45 minutes to an hour.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw
        biondanonima Nov 9, 2010 12:43 PM

        The black roaster could indeed be contributing to the problem, Cheryl's good results notwithstanding. Most baking recipes will specify that if you're using a dark colored pan you need to reduce the oven temp by 25 degrees. Also, those Graniteware pans thin and good conductors of heat, so they're going to suck the heat straight into the edges of your stuffing, whereas a glass or thick white Corningware-type porcelain dish will provide a little more even, gentle heat. However, you can still get good results in the Graniteware as long as you watch the temp - an oven thermometer might be helpful.

        1. re: biondanonima
          ZenSojourner Nov 11, 2010 03:23 AM

          Also, aren't those roasting pans pretty shallow, like an inch or 2 deep? I always made my dressing in a casserole dish or 9x13 pyrex dish.

      2. boyzoma Nov 9, 2010 11:49 AM

        I use a classic herb stuffing/dressing as well. I call it both because (and I know some will not agree) as I do some inside the bird (stuffing) and some on the side (dressing) as well. I never have a problem with what's in the bird, as I stuff lightly. I then put the rest in a covered corning dish as well like TorontoJo. The trick with that one is keeping it moist. I always have a jug of chicken broth nearby and will use it to baste the dressing. DH's grandmother used to put her herbed dressing around the outside of her turkey while baking and it absorbed all the juice from the turkey, was still dry, and never had any juice for gravy! They didn't eat gravy!!!! I can't imagine turkey without it!

        1 Reply
        1. re: boyzoma
          j
          jasonq Nov 9, 2010 12:07 PM

          What, no gravy...???

          Scary that cartoons are the first thing I thought of (and this site's namesake, no less!).

           
        2. c
          cheesecake17 Nov 9, 2010 12:28 PM

          Whatever recipe you end up going with... I'm going to recommend a trial run before the big day. Split the recipe in half if you're cooking for a lot, but definitely try it out at least once!

          2 Replies
          1. re: cheesecake17
            j
            jasonq Nov 9, 2010 01:54 PM

            A trial run is a great idea - have another family function this weekend (my family) - maybe I'll use *them* for guinea pigs. They live in another city, so there's only so much revenge they can exact upon me. The in-laws, OTOH, live three blocks away. : )

            1. re: jasonq
              c
              cheesecake17 Nov 10, 2010 05:37 AM

              I'm sure your family will be much more forgiving also!

              Another idea- take the basic stuffing recipe and split into several baking dishes with different add ins in each. Maybe one with apples/pears, one with chesnuts...

              Kind of like a wedding cake taste test.. but with stuffing!

          2. DiveFan Nov 9, 2010 01:30 PM

            If you want an easy-to-prepare alternate recipe, try my grandmother's:
            http://life-eos.blogspot.com/2007/11/hilary-bradys-cracker-crumb-stuffing.html
            which can even be made in the Microwave (!).

            Perhaps you can 'loan' your MIL a nice Pyrex baking dish like we always use successfully.
            http://www.pyrexware.com/index.asp?pa...

            1. s
              Snorkelvik Nov 9, 2010 01:37 PM

              I was once like you, and terrified to take on the Tgviing chores. Now I love cooking the meal, and the pressure, and the thrill. The best simple recipe for stuffing is from Joy of Cooking the 1997 version, Sausage stuffing. I think Pioneer Woman's version is very similar if you want to follow step by step instructions. Definitely do a test run. Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Snorkelvik
                j
                jasonq Nov 9, 2010 01:53 PM

                Heh. Appreciate the commiseration. I'm actually not all that worried about the actual idea of prepping food for lots of people, just screwing up something I've never actually made before.

                I cook for lots of folks every year at my kids' birthday parties, and assorted other functions (did a couple 100+ serving barbecues earlier this year). I also used to have a (very small) bakery business, so pressure, deadlines, etc. are easy enough to deal with. I'm just a perfectionist and my own worst critic. : )

              2. j
                jaykayen Nov 9, 2010 01:54 PM

                Those black pans are too thin. Pyrex would be better.

                1. greygarious Nov 11, 2010 02:37 PM

                  I agree that a glass, ceramic, or earthenware baking dish is preferable, and that more moisture will be needed. When I stuff poultry, I make enough so that I am also baking some in a casserole dish. While the stuffing inside the bird needs no added broth, that in the casserole soaks up a lot.

                  What has only been touched upon in the comments thus far is that covering the dish for the first 30 minutes makes a big difference in the moisture of the stuffing. Finishing it uncovered and it will still be plenty crisp. You might also want to try baking the stuffing in a muffin tin. It will go faster, and need more broth. It provides more of the crisp exterior that people like so much.

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