Who says stuffing is only for turkey? My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is stuffing – always has been and probably always will be. I have my dad to thank for that, because it’s his recipe, and he manages to concoct a perfectly identical version every year despite having no recipe or set ingredient ratios. He’s something of a miracle worker, actually.
It’s a good thing, then, I watched him carefully when I was growing up, absorbing every detail and filing it away in my mental recipe archives. Usually I forget exact recipe details (Case in point: I never remember what temperature I roast pork tenderloins at, so I check my favorite recipe each time – despite having roasted probably a dozen tenderloins in the last few years. However, I can recite a dozen mathematics or physics constants at the drop of a hat without hesitation. Go figure.), but not so with this stuffing. It is simply unforgettable. There is no other stuffing that should be eaten at Thanksgiving, no matter how many recipes the Food Network and innumerable cooking magazines try to throw at us every year.
I repeat: there is no other stuffing recipe.
There, good. Now we’re straight on this. So, back to the recipe. It’s simple. Slice a good bread – day-old country French is my favorite – into centimeter-square cubes. You can use however much you want, but I prefer a ratio of a sausage bit and a few flecks of veg per bread cube; really scientific coming from an engineer, eh? Next, sauté some crumbly country sausage (I grew up using Jimmy Dean’s pork sage sausage … so, why mess with success?), making sure to break it up into pea-sized bits. Remove the sausage from the pan and melt some butter. Sauté some chopped onion (Vidalia, please – but a yellow or Spanish onion will do, I guess) and chopped celery, and use much more celery than onion. When all that’s soft, add in a few sage leaves, finely chopped. Warm those up, then pile everything into a bowl with the bread. Next comes the slightly odd part, but bear with me. Melt a bit of butter (how much is up to you, but please do use at least a few tablespoons for a large bowl – or a gigantic saucepot, like my dad uses) and drizzle that over the mixture, tossing to reach all of the bread. You don’t want to saturate the bread, but you want to impart moisture so you don’t end up with parched stuffing after baking. Most people use broth or stock for this purpose, but go for broke – go for the butter! Finally, throw in some poultry seasoning, a dash of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and stir well so everything is coated. What you want is every bread chunk to have become well acquainted with its new friends Miss Sage, Mrs. Celery, Mr. Onion, and Ms. Sausage. Now you have created a very happy stuffing family.
What I did with this stuffing when I made it a few days before Thanksgiving was take a pork tenderloin, “butterfly” it into thirds, lightly pack a column of stuffing into the center, fold the flaps together so the stuffing was neatly tucked away, and tie the tenderloin at 2-inch intervals with kitchen twine. I salted and peppered the outside of the loin and baked it on a lightly greased, foil-lined baking sheet at 400°F for about 25 minutes. The time will vary due to how thick the tenderloin is; use a meat thermometer to check for 140°F at the thickest part of the meat itself.
My top photo really didn’t do this meal justice, and for that I am sorry. This stuffing does not deserve to be so shortchanged. Luckily, I made up for it by enjoying more of it at Thanksgiving, that time whipped up by my father. Naturally, it was as good as ever. And naturally, we had a vat of it: in the bird, outside the bird, still in the bowl … it’s like Christmas came early!
Are you wondering what you can do with leftover stuffing? I actually just discovered a gem today as I was slurping (well, not literally; I have better manners than that!) down some leftover butternut squash and sweet potato soup. I toasted a few spoonfuls of leftover dressing (which baked outside of the bird in a large baking dish) in the oven – a toaster oven would be ideal, but I have no such appliance – until the bread cubes were, well, toasty. Et voilà – deliciously flavored croutons for my soup! I bet this idea could work on a winter salad as well: crunchy greens or shaved fennel with toasted walnuts and grated parmesan, perhaps? Honestly, this stuffing would taste good on a moldy shoe, it’s that good.
On another note, I would like to share something else from the holiday weekend which also included my birthday. My parents spoiled me by vastly increasing the amount of Fiestaware in my apartment cupboard. I’ve been collecting the 1950s greens – chartreuse, dark green, and the rare medium green (see a pattern here?!) – since I was in high school. They’re a bit on the pricey side, with dinner plates now costing around $35 each and up to $60 or $70 for a medium green one, smaller bowls and serving dishes ranging from $30 to $80+, and the larger and rarer pieces hitting $200 and $300! I love them – hell, I love antiques in general – and think they’re worth it as long as I collect in slow motion. I use them every day and I love them every day; even my stuffed pork tenderloin above was enjoyed on a medium green dinner plate.
Well, apparently my mother hit the jackpot at a little antique shop near their house in southeastern Pennsylvania, and she got a bunch of pieces for a good price. So, here is the loot – her spoils of shopping and my shockingly wonderful gifts:
Yes, all of that … a medium green dinner plate, medium plate, and wide-rimmed serving bowl, and a dark green medium plate, bread plate, and wide-rimmed salad/soup bowl. Wow! I was speechless, and ever so thankful to my parents. They know their daughter well. So now I would like to know … do any of you use or collect Fiestaware? I’d love to hear about your collection!
Finally, I must address one last topic in this – long! – post. I very heartily congratulate Kate at Serendipity on the Honest Scrap award for her blog – her words, cooking, and art are a true joy to read. And I – with a fair bit of guilt and embarrassment, since my own blogging has been sporadic lately – gratefully accept her passing the award to me; thanks, Kate! I’ve certainly enjoyed my foray into culinary blogging so far, especially reading others’ inspirational posts and recipes while connecting with some very thoughtful and funny bloggers. However, I’m only putting on two blogs instead of the seven because I, sadly, have only gotten to know a few blogger of this kind of basis; the rest are larger blogs where I get lost in the shuffle. Oh well – this is an ongoing process! So, without further delay, here are the rules, my “Ten Honest Things”, and my favorite (growing) list of blogs. Thanks again, and enjoy!
- Post the award on your blog. Present this award to seven others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
- Tell those seven people they’ve been awarded HONEST SCRAP, inform them of these guidelines, and ask that they link back to you.
- Share “Ten Honest Things” about yourself.
Ten Honest Things about the Night Owl Chef:
- I love, love, love to read by candlelight. It’s a ridiculous thing, and sometimes strains my eyes, but it makes me feel like Elizabeth Bennett reading away her evenings at Longbourn.
- As gross as it sounds, I love the crispy skin from a roast chicken. I know, I know – it’s fatty and bad for me. But it’s so good…! Surely a few bites won’t kill me … right??
- I currently hold licenses to drive an Abrams tank and a race car – no joke. However, I’m really bad at shifting gears on manual cars….
- My best ideas and most creative times are when I’m washing dishes or showering; I think it’s because my mind is relaxed and unfocused then.
- I sing in the shower; my neighbors probably hate me, but there you go. I also sing in the car, and forcefully. I do not, however, sing in a choir, and I’m barely audible in church.
- On my list of Things To Do Before I Die is “open a bakery”. This will happen one day, so help me God!
- Nothing has gotten my heart racing faster than following a red Ferrari 308 – my dream car – down the highway in my green MINI Cooper at around 85 mph. In fact, every time I see a Ferrari 308 I have palpitations.
- I wear ballet slippers around the house like normal people wear slippers. Why? They’re really, really comfortable … and, because, you know … sometimes you just have to do pirouettes on the way from the living room to the kitchen. Doesn’t everybody??
- It really bothers me if two parts of my meal touch other on a my plate. I’m not OCD, honest – I just don’t like mixing flavors that weren’t meant to be put together.
- I see nothing wrong with baking the chocolate chip cookies from recipe on the back of the Nestlé chocolate chips bag….
Some blogs I visit regularly and enjoy … and so will you!
And others, with whom I haven’t connected yet but whose words and foods are devoured equally (by many!): Vanilla Garlic, Joy the Baker, not without salt, Bakerella, Hungry Cravings, and The Wednesday Chef.