Stuffing. In the bird or out, stuffing is one of those foods that seem to be a must-have during the holidays. It is not a difficult dish to make if you have the right ingredients and a little time. Yes, it may take a little effort to create that new family classic, but it will be well worth it. I will tell you that once you decide on what additions you want for your stuffing, you will be able to make it very quickly.
For any stuffing you will need:
BREAD – This can be a pre-packaged seasoned stuffing from the grocery store. This type has small pieces of dry bread that already has typical seasonings incorporated. You can get various versions or even plain ‘stuffing mix’. These are convenient and many thousands of people use them every year.
You can also bake corn bread the day before, let it cool and then cut it into chunks to make your stuffing. Cornbread stuffing is also a classic that will be served on thousands of tables this year.
If you have a family member that loves stuffing but is on a restricted diet (low- carbohydrate, diabetic, or following a glycemic diet) you may decide to use a whole grain bread. Whole grain breads can be purchased in loaves from a bakery, and sometimes found pre-packaged on the grocery shelf. Of course you always have the option to make your favorite recipe a day or two before.
It is important to use bread that is at least a day old. Day old bread seems to absorb the liquids more readily and produces a smoother stuffing.
LIQUID – Once you have your bread you will need the liquids. This is usually a good broth or stock that is added to the dry breads. You can use homemade or one of the versions from the grocery. I prefer homemade because I can control the salt and additives, but the choice is a personal one. For example, for turkey stuffing I usually drop all the gizzards, neck, excess skin, and bones into a large pot of water with a quartered onion and let it simmer on the stove for several hours. I also like the Herb Ox bouillon that I can mix with water to make a broth. This brand has 0 salt and with a husband on a low salt diet it is a great find.
‘HOLY’ TRINITY – Ok, well, not really holy but the standard mixture used in almost any stuffing. In fact, I cannot think of a time I would not use it in a stuffing recipe. The trinity is simply onion, celery, and carrots. Usually diced and cooked until tender in a saucepan with a little butter or oil. This gives the all important base flavor to your stuffing.
ADDITIVES – You can add almost anything you like to the stuffing and have a delicious version your family will love. Fruit, nuts, oysters, sausage, whatever.
Here is one of my family’s favorite versions. It is simple yet delivers a big taste and it is perfect with a good turkey gravy.
MOMMA’S PECAN AND CRANBERRY STUFFING – Momma is me. I have been making this recipe for over 30 years and my family always complains if I try to make something different.
You will need:
- 1 bag of herb seasoned stuffing mix – regular or cornbread variety
- 2-3 cups of good turkey broth or stock (or you can use chicken)
- 2 envelopes of Herb Ox chicken bouillon
- 1 can mushroom soup
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
- 1 cup (about) trinity (one small onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery diced)
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 diced granny smith apple
- 1 cup cranberry (dried craisins works well but you can also use the fresh or frozen cranberries)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the broth or stock in a saucepan and heat over medium heat just until it begins to boil. Dissolve the bouillon, poultry seasoning, and soup into the stock. Turn off the burner and add the dried Craisins. Stir and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a saucepan melt the butter and add the trinity. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are just tender and the onion is translucent.
Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and ‘roast’ about 5 minutes, stiffing once, at 350 degrees F. This helps release the flavors of the nuts. You could also do this in a dry pan on the stove top,but usually my oven is already on and my burners are being used.
Pour the stuffing mix (bread) into a large bowl. Add the diced apple and nuts and stir. Stir in the trinity mixture. Pour in the stock (or broth) mixture and mix well. The stuffing should be very moist but not wet and soggy. I sometimes have to add a little more broth. If you do add more broth just be sure it is warmed first.
Place the stuffing mixture into a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I like to sprinkle a few nuts and Craisins over the top. You can also use this to stuff the bird, just remember never to store the leftover turkey with the stuffing inside. If you use it in the bird, use a thermometer to insure the stuffing reaches at least 150 degrees.