Since I’m cooking two Thanksgiving dinners in two U.S. states this year, I am fully immersed in “do-ahead” mode. How else could I possibly manage??
Working through my list in Do-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 1), I have made my turkey stock and gravy, asked friends to bring pies and ordered my turkey. Now is the time to make my favorite part: stuffing — sometimes called “dressing”, a term from the English, or “forcemeat”, if you are just using just meat and binder. In my view, none of these terms make sense as I NEVER stuff a turkey, don’t “dress” the turkey, and don’t force meat into the turkey. Yet, for lack of a better term, I’ll call it stuffing.
Why don’t I stuff a turkey? It is virtually impossible to cook “stuffed” stuffing to food safe temperatures (165 F) without getting the turkey meat (especially legs) to the point of inedible dryness. It is difficult enough to get the different parts of the turkey done at the same time without stuffing a bird. In fact, sometimes, when I think nobody will notice, I cut the legs/wings off my turkey before roasting and cook them separately. That way you can add the legs/wings to the oven after the breast meat, and all parts will get done at the same time.
Anyway, we can “talk turkey” later. Right now I need to make some do-ahead stuffing — and a lot of it.
I made three times the following recipe — as I needed stuffing for two Thanksgiving dinners and some extra for my 97-year old Dad’s freezer meals (photo above). This Sausage, Sage and Apple Stuffing recipe scales up nicely. I cook all ingredients separately and then combine in a large bowl. So, your stove-top pot only needs to accommodate one or two ingredients at a time, making it easy to work with larger volumes.
This is a traditional stuffing recipe — no exotic fruit, spicy seasonings, expensive wild mushrooms or oysters. It is truly a basic stuffing, but one that always seems to please a diverse crowd.
Sausage, Sage and Apple Stuffing
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 10
11 ounces bread cubes, unseasoned, or about 9 cups, white or whole wheat suitable
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound sausages, Italian, removed from casings (feel free to use more sausage if you are feeding serious meat lovers)
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter (or substitute sausage fat drippings)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, black
2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 1/2 cups apples, granny smith or other tart apple
1 tablespoons parsley, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dry
1 tablespoons sage, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dry
1 tablespoons thyme, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dry
2 cups turkey stock, home-made unsalted
salt to taste for stock
pepper to taste for stock
1. If using fresh bread loaves, cube and spread on a sheet pan. Place in oven (275 F) and bake until dry. (If using store-bought stuffing mix with seasoning, you do not need to bake them, of course, but you will need to reduce the amount of seasoning later in the recipe by at least one half.) I prefer to mix plain whole wheat and white cubes.
Set cubed, dried bread aside.
2. Melt 2 T butter in a large sauté pan. Remove sausage from casings and cook through. With a spatula, scrape bottom of pan and break up sausage. I like to brown the sausage for a bit for extra flavor.
Remove sausage to a bowl and drain excess sausage fat. You can reserve this fat and substitute for part of the butter used to sauté vegetables. This will add more sausage flavor to the stuffing.
When drained sausage is cool, add to bread mix.
3. Coarsely chop celery and onion. Melt 4 T butter in the pan used to cook the sausage. Add celery/onion mixture and saute until translucent and wilted. Add 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper.
While celery/onion is cooking, chop or mince 2 cloves garlic. Add garlic to the celery/onion mix toward the end of cooking. Cook vegetables with garlic another minute or two. Toss in peeled and chopped apples. Stir to coat apples in butter and remove from heat.
Remove vegetables/apples from pan and let cool. Then add to bread/sausage mix.
4. Chop fresh herbs. (If using dry, generally 1 T fresh herbs = 1 t dry.) Be sure to pack the fresh herbs into measuring spoon firmly. Add herbs to bread mix.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. If you have other ingredients in the oven, you may use slightly higher or lower temperatures for baking the stuffing. Butter your baking dish – a 9×13 dish or larger.
Remove chilled homemade, unsalted stock from the refrigerator. It should have a nice “jello” texture. Reheat the stock on the stove-top to dissolve the gel, and season to taste with salt and pepper. I generally add about 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper per quart of unseasoned stock. (If you are using canned or pre-salted stock, you do not need to salt.)
Mix salted stock into bread mix. Place stuffing in a buttered baking dish or lasagna pan.
6. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for approximately another 30 minutes. Check stuffing toward the end of cooking. If it seems dry, you can drizzle a bit of stock or hot water (do not use cold if you are using a glass baking dish) into the dish. Bake until the stuffing is beginning to crisp and brown on top.
7. DO-AHEAD INSTRUCTIONS – If you are making the stuffing a few days ahead, prepare through step 5. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature one hour before baking. Bake according to directions above (Step 6.).
If you are making the stuffing more than a few days ahead, prepare through step 5. Cover and freeze. Move from the freezer to the refrigerator one day before service. Let sit at room temperature one hour before baking. Bake according to directions above (Step 6).
Note that I do not use eggs in this stuffing – because I prefer a crumbly stuffing and because I don’t like freezing raw eggs. If you like a “cake-like” stuffing, you can beat some eggs with a bit of milk and mix in before baking — about 3 eggs and 1/2 cup milk for this recipe.