Thanksgiving Stuffing

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My very favorite! Compliments of my mother-in-law.

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Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing, if you put it in the bird) is a wildly personal thing. Some versions are light and airy, and can almost be tossed around with a spoon. Other dressings bake up firm and solid, and can almost be cut into uniform squares. Some people stuff their bird with dressing, in which case the dressing is called stuffing. Others are dead set against stuffing the bird and opt for baking their stuffing in a baking dish, which means it’s called dressing. Some do a combination of both. Some dressing is basic: a combination of dried bread, aromatics, and dried herbs. Other, more loaded, versions can contain oysters, mushrooms, and even dried fruit and nuts.

I grew up loving my mom’s dressing. She never stuffed the bird, and her dressing fell into the slightly firm/very flavorful category. To serve it, we scooped out helpings with a spoon and for the most part, the stuffing stayed together in one homogenized piece. I still love it today.

A few years ago, however, I tried my mother-in-law’s dressing/stuffing for the first time and everything became clear and beautiful. The larger chunks of dried bread break apart to some degree when mixing the dish together, but large chunks remain throughout—and that’s what I love about this dressing. It isn’t soggy at all; even after baking, it remains light and crumbly and beautifully textural. A real feast for the senses!

Here’s how to make it.

(Note: For the original/ancient 2007 version of this post, click here! The basic recipe is the same, save for a few minor alterations.)

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A day or two before Thanksgiving, make the cornbread!

Here’s the recipe I use. It’s dee best: Skillet Cornbread

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Cut the cornbread into 1-inch cubes.

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Do the same with some crusty/chewy Italian bread (this is Ciabatta)…

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And do the same with some good ol’ Americanized “French” bread.

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Now, just lay all the bread on trays and let them dry out over the next day or two. The bread needs to be dry, dry, dry…dry!

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On Thanksgiving day, when you’re ready to make the dressing, chop up some onion…

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Some celery…

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(Leaves and all!).

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You also need a good amount of chopped parsley…

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And some minced rosemary.

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Grab the largest skillet you have and melt a whole doggone stick of butter.

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Add the onions and celery…

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And cook them for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

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When the veggies are starting to soften, pour in a whole bunch of chicken broth.

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Let this bubble up…

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Then add the rosemary…

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Dried basil, ground thyme, salt, and pepper…

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And parsley. Let this cook for another couple of minutes or so to make sure the flavors merge and melt and come together and get married and have babies and all that jazz.

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Pile all the dried bread into a huge bowl…

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Then, using a ladle…

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Spoon the broth mixture over the top. Keep adding the broth mixture, tossing as you go, until it’s all mixed in. Now, how much broth mixture you add depends on how moist you like the dressing! If you like dressing to be a little drier, just add about 2/3 of the broth—if you like it really moist and wet/mushy, go ahead and add it all!

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Once you’ve got the moisture right, give it a taste and add a little more salt, pepper, or whatever else you think it needs.

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Pile it into a huge casserole pan, or you can put part of in a pan and part of it in the turkey, or you can put the whole dang batch in the turkey! Well, as much as will fit.

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Then just bake it at 375 for about 20-30 minutes! It’ll be golden and slightly crisp on top, then nice and moist and lovely underneath.


Here are some variations:

* Add 3 peeled, finely diced carrots to the skillet with the onions and celery.

* Add 1/2 teaspoon ground sage with the other herbs.

* Add 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric to add a slight golden color to the dressing.

* Add chopped cooked bacon to the bowl with the bread chunks and herb/broth mixture.

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