Stuffing vs. Mashed
Mashed potatoes are great, really. But if I have to choose between Thanksgiving sides, it's all about the stuffing. A mountain of mashed is undoubtedly comforting, particularly as it nuzzles up against the turkey and other veggies on the holiday plate, but it's ordinary, no sparks.
Stuffing, on the other hand, screams Thanksgiving. Although nothing more than seasoned bread cubes that are reconstituted and baked, stuffing always feels festive. Perhaps it's the act of deconstructing a loaf of stale bread into puny dried cubes and transforming it into a baked bread salad, if you will, flavored according to mood and whimsy.
What's more, the creative possibilities are endless. Other than monitoring the bread-liquid ratio (should be 2-to-1 in most cases) to minimize the "goop" factor, there are no rules to making stuffing.
I always like to start with some sautÃ©ed onion, garlic and celery and build from there, depending upon my mood. I toss the bread cubes with the cooked aromatics and I add a hearty helping of chopped fresh herbs.
Meanwhile, I've got a bit of stock on the fire, at a simmer, and I'll ladle it over the cubes, gradually, allowing the liquid to be absorbed. I may add a splash of white wine for kicks. I add liquid until I'm satisfied with moisture quotient of the cubes and I taste for salt and pepper. Then I pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and bake for about 20 or so minutes until thoroughly warmed and a little crusty on top. And no, I don't add egg to my stuffing. It's not necessary.
If I want to make stuffing in advance, I hold off on the baking and simply allow the stuffing to cool, then keep chilled in fridge until dinner time.
Below is a flavor palette to help you get started as you build your very own stuffing. If I've overlooked one of your favorite fixings, by all means, share in the comments area below. And please, weigh in with those tried-and-true stuffing strategies!
Stuffing Fixins Bar
Bread: Cornbread, whole wheat, country white. Allow it to stale or dry it in oven for better absorption of liquid. Soft bread like Wonder white or dinner rolls do not yield a toothy stuffing.
Liquid: Stock, juice, wine, vinegar, milk, cream
Veg: Onion, shallot, garlic, celery, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, kale, collard greens
Herbs: Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme
Nuts: Chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans
Dried fruit: Raisins, cherries, cranberries, figs, dates, prunes
Fresh fruit: Apples, cranberries
Meat: Bacon, sausage, ham
Seafood: Shrimp, oysters
Talk stuffing and all the sides for one last time before Thanksgiving, today at noon ET.
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