Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Homemade vs. Pre-Made: Bread Stuffing for Roast Turkey

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, my favorite thing my mom makes is her stuffing. Same goes for all three of my brothers. We've always piled it on our plates at Thanksgiving. And once we all started bringing spouses and significant others to Thanksgiving dinner as we grew up, they all dug into the stuffing and loved it, too. It's just that good!

Contrast that with the first time I tried stuffing that's made from a boxed mix (the Mix-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Rhymes with RoveTop.). Ugh. My mom totally spoiled me. I couldn't eat more than a bite of the pre-made stuffing. It was dry and flavorless -- it sort of tasted like it was made of the box it came in. 

Like so many things, the from-scratch version of stuffing is actually really easy to make. My mom's amazing recipe is actually really basic, no fancy ingredients whatsoever. I've never made the boxed kind of stuffing, but I can't imagine that making it from scratch takes that much longer. Seriously. 

Not only does this homemade version of stuffing taste a bajillion times better than the pre-made variety, but it's also much healthier in comparison. The boxed kind is laden with preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. Ick. Another reason to make your own stuffing: it's actually a frugal dish to make (it's a great way to use up stale bread). You likely have every ingredient already in your pantry or fridge. 

My mom's recipe for stuffing comes from an old cookbook from around the 1940s.  The cookbook actually belonged to my grandmother. There's no cover on it anymore, so I can't even mention the title. My mom doesn't really follow that recipe closely anymore -- she just mixes it up, eyeballing the amounts and tasting it as she goes. Like with her potato salad, I decided to document the process and write it all down. The recipe I'm sharing with you today is sufficient for a 10-lb. turkey, but my mom always makes extra, too. 

So, please, for Thanksgiving this week, step away from the packaged stuff and make your stuffing from scratch. You'll never go back to the box. 

Mom's Bread Stuffing for Roast Turkey
(sufficient for 10-lb. turkey)

One 1 ½ lb. loaf of white bread
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth

Remove the crust from the bread and cut into a 1-inch dice. White bread does taste best in this recipe, though my mom has used wheat in the past. This stuffing is a great way to use up stale bread. Mom has used up stale hamburger/hot dog buns and other breads (like French bread) in the past with this recipe.

Dice up the celery, chop your onions, and grate the carrots (I just use my box grater). Want to feel all cool and culinary? These three ingredients together are called mirepoix. Now you can regale your Thanksgiving guests with this bit of knowledge. ("Oh this stuffing? I made it from scratch. So simple. First you start with a mirepoix...") 

The orignal recipe my mom referenced didn't call for parsley or sage, but they do add a really great flavor to the recipe. Feel free to omit if you don't have them, but I highly recommend both herbs. 

In a large skillet or pot (I used my Dutch oven) on medium-high heat, melt the butter then saute the celery and onion until soft and yellow. 

Add carrots and herbs to the celery and onion. Stir and cook for a few minutes.

Add the bread and the poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir and add broth. Let the mixture cool a little before stuffing it into a turkey.

Sooo, I actually I don't have any pictures of using the stuffing in a turkey. Let me explain...

The reason is that when I made this batch of stuffing pictured it was to take to a Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. I didn't have the turkey available. So, yeah, this stuffing can be enjoyed even if it's not actually ever stuffed in the turkey. Just serve it warm (put it in the oven or on the warm setting on a slow cooker) and it's ready to go.

That said, while this stuffing is good when it's not actually stuffed into a turkey, it's even better when it is. When you cook the turkey with this stuffing inside it, the juices from the turkey give the stuffing such a great flavor. Cooking the turkey with stuffing inside does slow the cooking time, but I think it's worth it.

When you stuff the turkey, make sure to do it lightly. Do NOT pack the stuffing into the turkey tightly. If you have extra stuffing, you can bake it in the oven alongside the turkey in a dish. You don't want to understuff the turkey, either -- all the the juices from the turkey can make too little stuffing soggy. From what I've read, a good guideline is 1/2 to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.

There are a few food safety concerns regarding stuffing a turkey. You have to make sure that everything is properly cooked and heated through before you serve the stuffing. All the juices should run clear when the turkey is done (including on the inside where the stuffing is). Stuffing, like the turkey, needs to reach a minimum temperature of 165°F. If the turkey is done before your stuffing has reached this temperature, put the stuffing in a dish and let it cook in the oven longer. 

Another food safety tip: stuff the turkey right before you're going to roast it. Don't let the stuffing sit in the bird for any extended period of time -- that creates a perfect environment for bacterial growth. (For more tips about stuffing turkey safely, you can read here.) 

Once your stuffing has reached the proper temperature, remove from the turkey and put it into a serving dish (alongside a couple of the other sides I've put on this blog: homemade cranberry sauce and the only yam side dish I like). I hope you'll love it as much as my family does!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Hope your celebration is wonderful!

1 comment:

MOhammed Baig said...

Looks delicious! Going to try this!

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