Demo Kitchen Recipe: A Quartet of Turkey Stuffings and/or Dressings

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We have four, yes four, recipes for you today. What’s with the horn o’ plenty-like abundance? It’s Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is all about more; more food, more drink, more family, more friends, more love, more groaning in pain due to overindulgence and more Amaro to rectify that situation. 

Not to mention that Thanksgiving is a rare day on which most of the country is eating turkey with a mindboggling array of side dishes, but the similarities from table to table only go so far. Regional American and immigrant influences creep into this unifying meal at every turn and, perhaps, most especially when it comes to stuffing. We can’t even come to a consensus about whether to call it stuffing or dressing but the Demo Kitchen humbly submits, in the face of regional lexicons, that we can clearly call it stuffing if one indeed stuffs it into a bird and dressing if it is baked in a casserole.  

It should come as no surprise then that there are dozens of variations on the theme and like a good string quartet, one should know a classic but it’s also nice to learn the variations. All these variations are complex in composition but easy to play and like a fine piece for string quartet there is cello (deep umami flavors provided by stock, meat, nuts, mushrooms, etc.), viola (those midrange notes of onion, celery, fruits, etc.), and violins (the high tones of fresh herbs, spices, and the like.)  

The classic version is, of course, whatever stuffing one grew up eating at this feast of feasts. No matter the style or what corner of the country it comes from, that is always the stick by which all other stuffings are measured and the fulcrum on which the entire meal is balanced. That’s right, it’s not the turkey but the stuffing on which all things hinge. 

As irreplaceable as that highly individual recipe is, ask yourself one question: Is there a spot on the table, between the sweet potatoes, green beans, and gravy for one more side? We think you will find that the answer is an emphatic yes. So, make room this year for something new, it just might be the beginning of a family tradition. 

One last thing. It is the considered opinion of the Demo Kitchen that the juices and fat that seep into a stuffing while being roasted in the bird are the final magical ingredient in any stuffing. We know some are uncomfortable stuffing poultry these days due to safety considerations and others will certainly reserve that spot for their old favorite. So, although every one of these is improved by the act of stuffing, we allow for any of these four to simply be prepared as dressing.  

So, what do we have here? First, Oyster Stuffing, a New England classic that will pair exceptionally well with crisp Chablis, or White Bordeaux. Next up, Chestnut stuffing, a combo with turkey that is popular both here and in Europe. Try it with Vouvray or Beaujolais. Cornbread stuffing is a Southern staple and pairs wonderfully with rich Chardonnay, well-aged classically styled Rioja or even Sangiovese based wines. Lastly, we have a fruity, nutty, wild rice stuffing that shines with West Coast Pinot Noir or off-dry Riesling. For beer, consider a complex Flemish Red like Rodenbach, an English Nut Brown Ale, or a malty Vienna-Style Lager. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Oyster Stuffing

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, cut into ¼” matchsticks 
  • â…“ cup unsalted butter 
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley 
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage 
  • 1 tsp. fresh marjoram 
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme 
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper 
  • 8 cups cubed day-old bread 
  • 2 cups shucked oysters, drained, and coarsely chopped; liquor reserved
  • 1¾ cups turkey or chicken stock 
  • ¼ cup oyster liquor 
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Starting in a cold cast iron skillet, cook bacon over medium-low heat just until lightly browned and fat has rendered but still meaty. 
  2. Add butter, celery and onion and sweat until tender. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  
  3. Add parsley, sage, marjoram, thyme, pepper, and bread cubes. Toss to coat bread evenly in butter and bacon drippings. 
  4. Add stock, oyster liquor and oysters. Toss to combine until liquid is absorbed evenly by the bread. Taste, add salt and pepper if needed. 
  5. Stir in eggs until evenly absorbed.  
  6. Stuff turkey and roast or transfer to a buttered baking dish and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 160° and stuffing is lightly browned. 

Chestnut Stuffing

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, divided 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 cups peeled cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 large pear, chopped 
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped 
  • ¼ cup dried cherries 
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh sage 
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary 
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ½ teaspoon pepper 
  • 1½ cups turkey or chicken stock 
  • 8 cups cubed day-old bread   
  • 2 large eggs 
  • ¼ cup milk 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large skillet, sweat onion and celery in 1/2 cup butter until tender. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.  
  2. Stir in remaining butter, chestnuts, pear, dried fruit, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 3-4 minutes or until dried fruit is softened. 
  3. In a large bowl toss mixture with bread until evenly absorbed.  
  4. Whisk eggs and milk together then add to stuffing and toss to coat. 
  5. Stuff turkey and roast or transfer to a buttered baking dish and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 160° and stuffing is lightly browned. 

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter 
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped 
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped 
  • 1lb. fresh pork sausage  
  • 8 cups coarsely crumbled corn bread 
  • salt, to taste 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper 
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley 
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme 
  • 2 tsp. fresh chopped sage 
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken stock 
  • ½ cup Madeira (Sercial recommended) 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large skillet, sweat onions and celery in butter until tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove to a mixing bowl. 
  2. Add sausage to the skillet, break it up into crumbles as it cooks over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Combine with onions and celery in the mixing bowl. 
  3. Add corn bread, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and sage: toss well.  
  4. Add stock and Madeira toss until evenly absorbed by corn bread. Add more stock if the cornbread seems too dry. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 
  5. Stuff turkey and roast or transfer to a buttered baking dish and bake at 350°F until lightly browned. 

Wild Rice Stuffing

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups wild rice 
  • 1 cup brown rice 
  • 8 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock 
  • salt, to taste 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter 3 shallots, finely chopped 
  • 1½ cups diced celery 
  • 3 medium apples, cored and cut in ½-inch dice 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries 
  • ½ cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In separate pans combine the wild rice with 6 cups stock and the brown rice with 2 cups stock. Bring to a boil.  
  2. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer brown rice for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender, and liquid has been absorbed. Turn off heat, let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  
  3. Simmer wild rice for 40 to 50 minutes, until the grains have begun to split. Strain away any remaining liquid, cover and set aside 10-15 minutes. 
  4. In a heavy skillet sweat shallot and celery with 2 tbsp. butter until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl, add the cooked rice, toss together. 
  5. In the same skillet cook apples in remaining butter over medium-high heat until crisp/tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. 
  6. Add cooked apples, cranberries, pecans, and sage. Stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
  7. Stuff turkey and roast or transfer to a buttered baking dish and cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes. 

 

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