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Confessions of a stuffing junkie

I've always been a staunch supporter of stuffing for my Thanksgiving turkey. It's a proud Yankee New England tradition, and it's my favorite Thanksgiving dish.

Dressing — stuffing cooked "outside the bird" was for whiny Southerners who couldn't say the word "cornbread" without tossing in the phrase WITH NO SUGAR. Yeah, yeah yeah.

But I have to confess, I've had a complete change of heart. Last Thanksgiving I made a humongousoid 30 lb turkey, which I had the butcher spatchcock because otherwise it wouldn't fit into my oven. So, I couldn't stuff it, and hence resorted to making "dressing" for the first time.

I took my usual Sausage and Apple Stuffing, and threw it in a crockpot with a roasted turkey wing on top. The wing eked out delicious juices and the mixture, I SWEAR, tasted exactly like it was cooked inside the turkey. It was DELICIOUS.

Even though this year I am not making The Turkinator, just a normal turkey, I am still going to make the stuffi.... er dressing, in my crockpot.

Southerners, I owe you an apology.

Here is my stuffing/dressing recipe. You can read more and see pix here: http://patriciagay.wordpress.com/2013...

Sausage and Apple Stuffing, er Dressing

This recipe is for the crockpot (slow cooker), but can also be used for stuffing a turkey.

1 roll Jimmy Dean regular bulk pork sausage
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 to 3 ribs chopped celery
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 14-ounce package Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing crumbs OR
1 to 2 loaves of day-old white bread (aka stuffing bread), torn into small pieces NOTE: Sometimes I like the crumbs, sometimes the bread… pick what you like
2 teaspoons Bell’s Seasoning - or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 to 3 cups turkey or chicken stock or more if needed to make moist stuffing
2 turkey wings

1. Roast the turkey wings for about 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until they start getting brown, remove from oven, set aside.
2. Pour stuffing crumbs (or torn bread) into a large bowl.
3. Break sausage meat up into a large skillet/saucepan. Cook over medium heat until evenly brown. Pour sausage AND drippings into the crumbs and stir.
4. Melt the butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and apple, and cook and stir until the celery is tender (about 5 minutes). Stir that mixture into the bread and sausage.
5. Add one to two cups of broth, stir, add the Bell’s seasoning, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste. How is the flavor? Adjust if it needs more.
6. Stir in the beaten eggs, (but first make sure the bread mixture is not hot or the eggs will scramble). Add more chicken broth (exact amount will vary, it may be one more cup, two more cups, or more). The stuffing should be moist, but not mushy.
7. Lightly butter bottom and sides of the interior of the crockpot. Lightly scoop (DO NOT PACK) the stuffing into the crockpot. Top with the turkey wings (break them apart if they are big, or just use one wing), cover and cook on high about 3 hours, stirring on occasion (Time varies according to your crockpot). The cook eats the turkey wing. Just for taste testing purposes of course.

Note: Ingredient amounts are approximate. I do not measure. I make approximately double the recipe for the Thanksgiving crowd.

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  1. Actually I don't think, for me anyway, that cooking it in a slowcooker would give the results of "dressing." (Pan) dressing has all those great crunchies. I think you made stuffing :)

    7 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      This is what I'd think, too. I wonder if you could put a spatchcocked turkey on a rack over the pan of dressing and have it drip onto the dressing.

        1. re: chowser

          That was my original thought - just throw the stuffing under the spatchcocked bird, but for some reason, I don't remember why, we nixed that idea.

          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            That's what I am doing. I am cooking just the breast (because there are dark meat haters in my family). I will cut the breast in half and lay it on top of the stuffing. The stuffing comes out great! (I did a test run earlier this year.)

            1. re: TrishUntrapped

              You definitely can do this. Mark Bittmann recommended it in the times one year and and I did it because I could only fit a butterflied (spatchcocked) bird in my oven. The stuffing (dressing) came out delicious.
              I just packed the stuffing into a roasting pan, put a rack on top, and then put the bird on that. I'm sure you can google the Bittmann recipe.

          2. re: c oliver

            Heh. Instead of stuffing a turkey, it was a crockpot that got stuffed!

            Sounds delicious, though. :-)

            1. re: c oliver

              There there WERE plenty of crunchy bits in the crockpot dressing - the bottom, sides and top.

            2. Alton Brown does an interesting thing I'd like to try. He makes his stuffing separate, but then stuffs it into the bird once the bird is done. So the stuffing still gets all of the wonderful turkey drippings without the chance of any uncooked bacteria.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ludmilasdaughter

                It does not get the drippings in the same way at all.
                And I think this bacteria thing is hooey.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Well, it does not get drippings in the SAME way, but it does get drippings. I was just posting this as an interesting alternative.

              2. I couldn't find any Jimmy Dean sage flavor sausage this year, so decided I'd use whatever was in my freezer. Guess what I found? Chicken sausage made with apple! Might be a keeper.

                10 Replies
                1. re: coll

                  I think chicken sausage would be very tasty.

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    I figured it would be a few less calories at least!

                    I put so much stuff in my stuffing that it's just one of many flavors, not too critical. I didn't even remember buying apple sausage, so that was a nice surprise. My only other option was chipotle flavor, not sure how that would have worked out.

                    1. re: coll

                      While I'm sure some people would like chipotle stuffing, I'm not of them. I personally would like to throw some sauteed chopped onions in with the stuffing - that got a huge NO from Mr. Untrapped.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        That's sad! I put leek and shallots myself.

                        1. re: coll

                          That sounds GREAT. I'd love that in my sausage stuffing.

                      2. re: coll

                        Thanks for the laugh - chipotle flavor stuffing would be a shocker, for sure!

                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                          Pavo relleno con diablo? I wouldn't do that to my guests, but I would do it to me!

                          1. re: Veggo

                            My BIL would have liked the chipotle, but for the sake of the rest of us, the apple sausage went over very well. Now if I see it, I'll pick up a pack to freezer for the next holiday.

                            1. re: coll

                              That's great Coll. Next time I stuff a bird I'm going to try it!

                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                Just lucky I guess! I like that it's sort of lighter than pork too, just by a bit.

                  2. I stuff both the turkey (not the duck this year) and make a large pan of oyster-chestnut dressing. All ingredients in the dressing are essentially pre-cooked, so the oven session is to hotten it up and get a crisp on top.
                    The re-heated leftovers, oven not microwave, are arguably even better.

                    1. My mother is a die hard inside the bird (though my dad always called it dressing anyway), and I am agnostic. I have discovered, however, the joys of eating it - whatever it is - outside of Thanksgiving. A beautiful thing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. To be clear, you roast the turkey wing before making the stuffing?

                        Edit: duh, I see that now is step #1. Would it work with a turkey neck or other parts?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                          Yes you roast the wing, you don't put a raw wing in, it wouldn't cook right. And yes, I think a turkey neck, cooked just a little first to take the raw edge off would be excellent.

                        2. We never can get enough dressing or stuffing (or "filling" as Mr P calls it). A question, though: what's in "Bell's Seasoning"? More like poultry seasoning?

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: pine time

                            This is Bell's Seasoning. I like it, it's very convenient. Sometimes I make my own version too:


                            BELL'S POULTRY SEASONING - copy cat recipe

                            4 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
                            4 tsp dried oregano
                            3 3/4 tsp dried sage
                            3 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
                            3 tsp dried marjoram
                            2 3/4 tsp dried thyme
                            3/4 tsp ground black pepper

                            Mix together and grind to fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

                            Makes about 1/2-cup.

                                1. re: pine time

                                  About the same distance east or west...:)

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    We're on the west coast, so if I were going to PA, would just keep on heading east, I guess! (We've flown it both east and west, and neither is pleasurable.)

                                    1. re: pine time

                                      That's a LOT of time zone changes!

                                  2. re: pine time

                                    A few of my very close friends are indian, at our celebration there will be sage naan bread and a chickpea curry with sweet potatoes for the vegetarians :)

                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                      I tell Mr. P. he's a bad Indian--he elects no Indian foods at all on T'giving. And, his birthday is upcoming. He used to ask for rasgullas instead of b.d. cake. Now he's saying No Indian for b.d., too. I'm beginning to think he's 'really' from Indiana.

                                2. Always good to see another Yankee come around from the dark side...

                                  1. Our Illinois family, both sides and down the middle, stuffed the birds and called it dressing. My Grandma Owen, who did most of the Thanksgiving meals, always did two turkeys with plain dressing in one and oyster dressing in the other, since some of us craved oysters and others did not, at all.

                                    When I got into the TG-cooking thing I started out stuffing it in, but found that this was not compatible with making a good clear broth from the carcass. That's what led me to cook it separately. And then I saw a suggestion about stuffing under the breast skin, which for the first time rewarded me with breast meat having no resemblance to balsa wood whatsoever.

                                    I did cook my first spatchcocked turkey atop a pan of stuffing, but again I couldn't clean the residue off the carcass well enough. I was pleased with the rapidity with which that split bird gets cooked, though, so my next two were done that way, but stuffed only in the breast. Alas, I turkey no more, as Mrs. O has bailed out of the dead-animal thing, so my stuffing exercises are perhaps a pork chop or a split Cornish hen for my once-a-week bachelor dinners. At least it's teaching me how to make it in small batches …

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Wait, wait, wait, did you say stuffing under the breast skin? Like where I put butter/thyme when I roast a chicken? You stuff under the skin or just under the spatchcocked breast?

                                    2. This is a wonderful discussion. I love the traditional dressings/stuffings, but also some unusual ones. Like an apricot-brown rice version I got (I think) from Joy of Cooking about 40 years ago or a wild rice and dried cherries one I found on the net the other day that I will use next Sunday. (We're having our Thanksgiving at another monastery, so I'll cook a bird Sunday, mainly for turkey soup and sandwiches afterwards.) All of this reminded me of a chapter in Teresa Lust's wonderful book of essays and recipes, "Pass the Polenta." It centered on the conflicting family traditions of Thanksgiving dinners from her mother's family and her father's--based mainly on the stuffing, as I recall. I found it on Amazon used-like new and ordered it for $.01plus shipping.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        My favourite stuffing/dressing comes from the Maritimes, New Brunswick to be exact. It has potatoes in it, and it turns out wonderfully well in or outside a bird.

                                        For Christmas, we typically do bread and butter stuffing in one end of the turkey and oyster stuffing in the other. There is always extra that goes in a pan and gets cooked separately.

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          Your mentioning potatoes in stuffing reminded me of India; I had never seen bread stuffing until I came to this country. Roast chicken and fresh killed turkey are quite popular in certain circles in Calcutta, at least in my time in the early 60s. However, "roast" meant braised, and stuffing always followed the same formula.

                                          Potatoes, skin on or off, cut into small dice.
                                          Fresh green beans, ditto.
                                          Nantes type carrot, ditto.
                                          Green peas, wash under water if frozen.
                                          Giblets, liver, chopped.
                                          Onion, minced.
                                          Salt, pepper, healthy slug of L&P Worcestershire sauce.
                                          Tiny pinches of clove, cassia bark, green cardamom, and roasted powdered cumin, IF giblets etc. in finished stuffing smell too strong.

                                          Sweat minced onions in butter & oil. Add veg. except green peas, if frozen. Add giblets, S & P, sauce, and raisins, cook until barely tender, including the peas somewhere here. All of these will cook again. You may add a pinch of sugar to balance taste, and minute pinches of the spices if smell too strong. All the turkeys and such were raised on open range, and quite gamey.

                                          Cool and stuff bird which is trussed and browned in oil/butter, then removed. In same fat, sweat minced onions in proportion to weight until begin to change color, add small qty. minced garlic and bay leaf, peppercorns, and celery leaves or Calcutta parsley stems, a dash or 3 of the L & P, salt.

                                          Some might caramelize sugar before adding the minced onions or add a bit of caramel water, but with a very light hand. This is braised under a tight dough seal. Sometimes peeled sauteed potatoes are cooked along with this so-called roast.

                                          After it is done, the gravy is reduced to demi-glace or even to a glaze and reconstituted with additions of boiling water, to get a specific taste, but care must be taken not too take this too far as an unpleasant overcooked, bitter note will take over everything.

                                          Served with dinner rolls, butter, and often a composed salad of tender-firm cooked beet, ditto cauliflower, other fresh vegetables, sometimes dressed with home-made mayonnaise.

                                        2. re: Father Kitchen

                                          Thanks for the tip on Pass the Polenta, Father Kitchen, that definitely sounds like a must read for me.

                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                            It's a wonderful read, you'll love it.

                                            1. re: coll

                                              Just ordered Pass The Polenta on Amazon.com for one penny, plus shipping. Thanks for the tip!

                                        3. Thank you for the post and directions of making a "dressing" taste like "stuffing". I am from the northeast, but currently living in North Carolina. I grew up with the stuffing inside the bird, but here in NC people make dressing.

                                          I used my own stuffing recipe, which is made with a homemade "turkey stuffing bread" that is wheat based but also has corn meal. No sausage or apples in the stuffing, just celery, onions and a bit of diced carrots, cooked in lots of butter along with fresh herbs like thyme, sage and parsley. Used a homemade turkey stock to moisten.

                                          I was roasting some turkey wings to make a stock from for the gravy, so roasted two more to put on top of the "stuffing" in the crock pot. It worked out perfectly. Still get some of the "dressing" crispness at the sides of the crock pot, and the yummy meat dripping flavor as if it had been cooked in the bird. I am using this technique from now on. Thanks for sharing!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Springhaze2

                                            Springhaze, glad your stuffing turned out good! Mine did too. I had two crockpots of it going. And like yours, the sides and bottom were crispy and the inside was very moist. The wings gave it great flavor.

                                            By making the stuffing in the crockpot, my 20lb turkey was ready in under three hours. It was very moist (Pineapple brine) and it freed up the oven for me to easily bake off the pepperoni cheese bread and sweet potatoes.

                                            I'll always make it this way from now on! ;-)

                                          2. One of my favorite dishes is turkey hash:

                                            Turkey dressing --
                                            mixed with turkey meat --
                                            and some turkey gravy.
                                            Bake (or heat up in a frying pan) until hot and bubbly.
                                            Top with more (hot) turkey gravy.

                                            1. This year, I experimented with Streit's whole wheat farfale (spelling?) a kosher product used as stuffing or baking outside a bird. It was marginally acceptable, as cooked according to package directions, substituting olive oil for chicken fat.

                                              There was a musty smell, which could have been the product, or just could have been an older package sitting too long on the grocery shelf.

                                              Perhaps turkey drippings might have improved things, or the Southern can of cream soup?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: GTM

                                                Whole wheat products do go rancid fairly easily. And I have a feeling that Streit products might not be the fastest moving on the shelves. Maybe you should stick with white, at least for the holidays, I imagine that turns over a little quicker.

                                                Maybe some onions, mushrooms, thyme, something along those lines?

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Did add a whole lot of celery, onions, Minor's chicken base derived broth and dried sage leaves from fresh home grown. You are right, the Streit's experiment was not a success! Other than freshness which definitely was a concern, the product itself might need a bit more reworking? The texture is indifferent, and this from someone who is very fond of regular matzoh in any guise.

                                                  For me Thanksgiving is complete with just Pepperidge Farm stuffing with celery, onions and poultry seasoning, good gravy, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, and a baked potato [even microwaved is fine]. Very ho-hum, but I like it that way.

                                                  1. re: GTM

                                                    You just described my husband's perfect meal!

                                              2. For lunch, just had the last of the stuffing with gravy. Mmm...