Other than mashed potatoes (and now gravy), stuffing is the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, isn’t it? I mean, that pre-packaged stuff my parents used to get from Safeway was generally pretty mediocre, but even then I would eat several helpings because I’m a carboholic with no self control.
Homemade stuffing though…that’s where it’s at. Bread tossed with various vegetables and/or meats and herbs, drenched in savory liquid, and then baked to golden perfection? Divine.
I love digging into the homemade stuffing at Dan’s relatives’ houses when we go up for Thanksgiving. Everyone has a different recipe they like to use, but they’re all tasty. It’s nice being married into a family full of good cooks!
Sadly, there aren’t any amazing handed-down-for-generations stuffing recipes in my family, and I haven’t pried any recipes from Dan’s aunts yet, so when I decided to cook my Friendsgiving feast last weekend, I had to turn to the Internet for help.
Lots of stuffing recipes out there, people. And everyone seems to love sausage, apple, and sage in their stuffing, in various combinations. What’s up with that? Personally, I’ve never been able to get behind the pork/apple thing. And who even knows what sage tastes like? (Rhetorical question – I know people know what sage tastes like!)
ANYWAY. The point is, those sausage/apple/sage recipes were not for me. I was *this* close to giving up and just going to Safeway to buy a thing of prepackaged stuffing when I found a recipe that looked promising. Italian bread, butter, garlic, fennel, leeks, onion, celery, parsley, and chicken broth – all things I liked separately, and that I could see being super tasty mixed together. I could work with that!
My friend Robin was telling me yesterday that she has a fabulous go-to stuffing recipe that people always beg her to make on the holidays. I was going to ask her for the recipe until she mentioned in the next breath that it takes her about 15 hours to make, from start to finish. Fifteen hours. FIFTEEN HOURS.
And, unlike a crock pot meal, the recipe requires her to spend many of those fifteen hours standing in front of the stove, slowly caramelizing onions. WHAT. NOPE.
I don’t care how delicious a recipe is – there is no way in hell I’m spending 15 consecutive hours in the kitchen cooking anything! Do you know how many other things I could do or how many naps I could take in that time???
In case you’re wondering, this recipe does NOT take 15 hours. If you prep your vegetables and bread the night before, the actual cooking time on the day-of is about an hour. Which means you have plenty of time to whip up other tasty treats for your Thanksgiving meal (or drink wine, whatever).
And as for how the stuffing tastes…I liked it! Great texture – not too soggy, not too dry, perfect amount of chew. In terms of flavor, if you like fennel (which has kind of a sharp, bright taste), or buttery/onion-y foods, you’ll like this.
FYI, this stuffing tastes great by itself, or with some bacon shallot gravy on top….
- 1 loaf Italian bread (or any other white bread - mine was about 1 lb)
- 1 medium leek, trimmed and sliced
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
- 3 large celery ribs, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp butter
- ½ cup chicken broth (or vegetable/beef broth)
- ½ cup milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ cup finely chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cut your bread into slices, then cut each slice into ½″ – ¾″ cubes. Discard the heels of the loaf. Arrange cubes on rimmed baking sheets to dry, uncovered, for 18-24 hours.
- Prep your leeks – trim dark green top and root end from the leek, saving the white and light green part. Slice the reserved leek in half lengthwise then each half crosswise into thin pieces.
- Prep your fennel - trim stalks off the top of your bulb. Cut the bulb in half top to bottom. Slice the halves into long thin, strips, then crosswise into small diced pieces.
- Dice your celery and onion.
- Combine sliced fennel and leeks in a bowl with diced celery and onion. Refrigerate until you're ready to cook.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter/oil a square baking dish.
- Heat your butter in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat until melted.
- Add your leek, fennel, celery and onion. Stir, and cook until soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook another 60 seconds, then remove your pan from the heat.
- Carefully stir in your bread cubes and chopped parsley.
- Add chicken stock and stir.
- Whisk together the milk and egg and add that to your pan as well. Stir to coat each piece of bread evenly. Your stuffing mixture should be pretty moist and hold together.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon stuffing into your baking dish and cover with foil.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown
- Serve, with other Thanksgiving treats, and enjoy!
(Slightly adapted from A Food Centric Life’s recipe)