Monday, November 21, 2011

Dressing For Success!

There is an age-old debate: stuffing or dressing? Two variations on the same theme, but they aren’t as far apart as many people would want to believe. Stuffing that gets prepared and is put inside of the turkey is still stuffing. Many feel that the juices flowing from the bird as it roasts provide the stuffing with incredible moisture and important flavor. This is true. But because I stuff my turkey with aromatics like onions, lemon and celery, there is no room for stuffing. Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it, I prepared my turkey already – two weeks prior to Thanksgiving (whaaaaaa???? – take a look at my last blog posting for the early turkey process).

I think another important detail that factors in to one’s preference to stuffing or dressing comes down to what you grew up eating. My mom and grandma made dressing – that’s what we ate and that’s what I learned to prepare. I’m most comfortable with, and feel the long traditions of, a dressing that is made in a separate dish and its only proximity to the turkey is on the buffet.

Now you can buy a box of stuffing in the store and just boil water, add an envelope of seasonings and the dried bread and in minutes you got stuffing. But if you never tried making it from scratch, I think you should give it a try. You can really make it unique, depending on the kinds of things you want to include. The basic idea is the same – dry bread of some kind, seasonings, a binder like eggs, something to moisten it, such as broth, and then you decide what else you would like to have in it. My recipe is very traditional – lots of onions and celery, but I also put in a good measure of fresh parsley because I love the brightness it brings the dish. You could put in apples, nuts, sausage (pork breakfast sausage, chorizo, kielbasa, etc.), oysters, carrots, artichokes, turnips – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

Cornbread Dressing

For the cornbread (I use a shortcut in the form of a cornbread mix, but if you have a cornbread recipe that you love, by all means use it):

3 boxes of cornbread mix (such as Jiffy)
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp rubbed sage
½ tsp. each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl until combined. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then put into oven for 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely. (You can make the cornbread a day or two in advance, if you like.)

1 stick butter
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced celery (include the leaves if you have them – they have great flavor)
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. rubbed sage
32oz turkey or chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet or an electric skillet, melt butter until it starts to brown slightly. Over medium heat, add onions, celery, salt and pepper and combine so that all the vegetables get coated with butter. Sauté the veggies until they become translucent and tender, about 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take your pan of cornbread and cut it into small squares. Remove cornbread from its baking dish and put in a large bowl. Using a fork and your fingers, crumble the cornbread into smaller pieces. You can leave some larger chunks; it will give the texture a nice variety. Add your celery and onions to the cornbread. Then add the fresh parsley, beaten eggs and seasonings. Using a large spoon or spatula, mix ingredients together until well combined. Pour broth over dressing gradually – about a third of the amount at a time, mixing well after each addition. Transfer dressing to a large casserole or baking dish that has been greased. Cover with foil and place in oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and it’s ready to serve!

NOTE: You can do most of this the night before. Simply put it together and place it in your greased casserole or baking dish. Cover and put in the refrigerator. Bring it out about an hour before you put it in the oven and then bake 50 minutes or so.

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