My Dear Loves,
It came to my attention recently that some of you might still be reaching for that box of Stove-Top during this glorious time of year. This breaks my heart. Do you know what's in boxed stuffings? Weird stuff, that's what. It's time to make your own stuffing. You can make homemade stuffing! It is so easy! And you can control what's in your stuffing, making it to your taste and even healthy (or not healthy, I'm not your mom.)
1 large paper bag
I live in the high desert so my prep might be different than yours. When I was a kid, my dad would start collecting bread about three weeks before Thanksgiving. He'd chop up the bread heels we left in the bags, he chopped up stale slices of French bread, whatever we had leftover, and put them all in a large paper bag. He'd shake it once a day or so. In these parts, the bread dries out and does not mold. If you live in a humid place, chop up your breads and put them in a bag in the freezer.
In this bag I have some whole wheat bread, some white sandwich bread, some French bread. What kind of bread should you get? Whatever is leftover, day-old, and cheap. Most stores have day-old bread on a sad little rack to the side of the fresh stuff. If you want it to be healthy, choose whole grain breads. Rye bread? Why not? Croissants? Oui! You can even throw in some leftover cornbread, who's going to tell you no? Not me, I'm an enabler.
The Main Ingredients:
12 cups of stale bread cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup of finely chopped celery
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
5 sage leaves, chopped
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped
5 Tbl butter (OR 2 Tbl olive oil)
22 ounces of chicken broth (2 14.5 ounce cans) low sodium is best, but you can use whatever
Buttered 9"x13" pan
Why is there an apple in that picture?
That's because stuffing is about what you like. Add some chopped apple and a little sweet to your stuffing? Why not? Use dried herbs if you don't have fresh! Hate rosemary? Try smoked paprika, or any other spice/herb! Leave out the red pepper? OK! Like adding delicious, saturated fat calories because you don't have enough of that in your diet? Render bacon or pancetta and toss in the goodness. Add fennel bulb, roasted chestnuts, pecans, golden raisins, or mushrooms? Absolutely! Carrots? Don't be insane, that's gross. Carrots in stuffing...I've heard everything.
Whatever you decide to add, chop it up small because the bread should be the star.
Trying to be healthy? Use the two tablespoons of olive oil instead of the butter.
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt. Saute for five minutes on medium-low heat. You don't want to brown the onions, just soften them.
Add the celery, bell pepper, sage, rosemary, and sprinkle with salt, maybe even some black pepper. Saute over medium heat for two or three minutes until it smells amazing and the veggies are starting to soften. If you're the type of cook who adds half a cup of white wine to your stuffing, now's the time, and reduce it to cook out the alcohol. No wine in mine today.
Put the bread cubes into a large bowl (large enough to hold 12 cups.) Pour the veggies over the bread and toss. Add the chicken stock. You can use homemade, of course. Your bread might need another 1/2 cup or so of chicken stock. Taste your bread and veggies. Does it taste good? The chicken stock will soak the bread and evaporate, so don't put too much salt.
Toss the bread and the stock, and pour into a 9"x13" pan that's been brushed with melted butter. How? I put a tablespoon of butter into the pan, stick it in the oven for a minute until it melts, and then brush it around the pan. Want healthier? Spray with a little cooking spray. Actually going to use it to stuff your bird? Go on with your bad self! (It won't all fit, you'll need to split half into a small oven-proof dish to bake.)
Look at that! Your stuffing is ready to hit the 350 degree oven for about an hour. About? Yes, about. I don't know how hot your oven really is and I don't want you to burn your stuffing. Start checking the stuffing at 45 minutes. Mine took a full hour. Maybe because I took a nap and couldn't wake up in time to check at 45 minutes.
Ooooooh! Look! It's golden brown and moves slightly when you take it out of the oven!
Don't try to eat it right away, let it sit at least 15 minutes before you start spooning it out.
Check you out, you made stuffing!