Classic Bread Stuffing

Classic Bread Stuffing
all photography Blue Caleel

Cutting the Brioche and Rustic Country Bread into 1-inch cubes

I make a quick and easy turkey stock with the neck and the neck flap.
First I salt both with kosher salt, then sear in a little olive oil.  After they are both browned and there are some brown bits on the bottom of the pan I fill it with 5 or 6 cups of water.
That way I have turkey stock whenever I need it and that is what I add to my stuffing to make it as moist and flavorful as if it was cooked inside the bird.

Chopping Celery.  First Slice in the lengthwise and then chop as above

Adding fresh thyme to the softened onions and celery

This is what 16 cups of 1-inch bread cubes look like before you add them to the stuffing
(Be sure the bread is a couple days old.  If you are using fresh bread then toast it on a sheet tray in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes to dry it out.) 

This recipe is so delicious because it is all about the butter. Thanksgiving is not the time to care about calories or fat; it is the time to feast and enjoy. In fact, I heard a nutritionist give a talk just before Thanksgiving.  He said it is impossible to lose all the weight you want in just one day, and it is also impossible to gain all the weight you want in just one day. Think about it. Even if you starved yourself for one day, you might lose some water weight. However, you wouldn't lose any real weight. True weight loss or gain is a consistent pattern over an extended period of time. The nutritionist went on to say that if you go back to your normal healthy eating routine the day after Thanksgiving, you will most likely just boost your metabolism from your feast day and end up lighter after the whole experience Monday morning. So, feast to your heart's content on Thanksgiving. and then eat a balanced normal diet the day afterward. I'm living proof that this works. Recently I lost 12 pounds. I tested this stuffing recipe yesterday, and I ate as much as I wanted. I also ate mashed potatoes, gravy, and turkey. When I got on the scale this morning, I hadn't gained an ounce. So truly enjoy!

The second most important ingredient for this recipe after butter is the right bread.  If it tastes good as bread, it will taste great as stuffing.  So, buy the best bread you can find.  I often use a combo of two or three different types of bread.  I buy the whole loaf and cut it up into one-inch cubes.  I either use bread that is one or two days old; if it is fresh, I toast it on sheet trays in the oven after cutting it into cubes.

This stuffing tastes as if it was cooked inside the bird because I pour 3 cups of homemade turkey broth on it.  I don't cook it inside the bird because a stuffed bird takes longer to cook and you end up with cardboard dry breasts while you're waiting for everything to cook all the way through.

For those that like sausage stuffing, you can cook 1 pound of your favorite sausage and just combine it when you are mixing everything together before you put it in the even.  Make sure the sausage is completely cooked before mixing it in.

Large stock pots are usually on sale during the holiday season.  Costco, TJ Maxx, or Marshall's are all great sources for deals, but even the main cooking stores-- like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table-- often have sales during the holiday season. This means it is a great time to buy one that you will use year after year. Ideally, a 9-quart stock pot would be the best for this recipe, but it will still fit in an 8-quart stock pot. You want a pot with a heavy bottom that you can use in the future for soup, chili, etc.  All-Clad is of course my most favorite, but there are some other high quality pots out there too.

Serves 8-12

You will need a total of 2 1/2 sticks of butter: 2 at the beginning and 1/2 at the end.  Don't skimp!  Also, I use fresh herbs in my recipe.  If you are using dried herbs then you will want to use half of the amount in the recipe.

2 sticks of unsalted butter 
2 large yellow onions, diced, about 4 cups total (If using medium onions, you will probably need 3.)
6 celery stalks, chopped (I cut mine in half lengthwise and then chop them)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (remove the leaves from the stem before chopping)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (if you decide to use dried herbs instead, use half the amount of sage and thyme)

16 cups of 1-inch cubes of good bread,  about 1 1/2 loaves of bread (I often use a combo of brioche and some kind of rustic country loaf. The bread should be one or two days old.  If it is fresh, then toast it in the oven to dry it out before you make the stuffing.)

3 cups of turkey broth (See the photo above:  I make this by salting and searing the neck and flap piece in a pan with a little oil and then pouring five cups of water over it after it has browned. I have this in a pot on the stove cooking while my turkey is in the oven. You can substitute chicken broth if you'd like, but the turkey will have a better flavor. Plus, it is free and easy to make since it comes with the turkey you are roasting.)

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves removed from stems and coarsely chopped (dried parsley isn't an option. Only use fresh for this.)

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into pats to dot on top of stuffing before it goes in the oven.

Heat a 9-quart stock pot to medium. Melt the 2-sticks of butter and add the onions as soon as the butter is just melted. Turn the heat to medium high and sprinkle the onions with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté the onions for two minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the celery to the onions and cook for another 8 minutes, continuing to stir frequently.

After the onions are soft, add the chopped fresh thyme and sage and stir.  (Remember, if using dried herbs, then use half the amounts listed above. Fresh is better, and most markets now carry fresh herbs.)

Add the cubes of bread and stir. Pour the turkey broth over the bread and combine. Stir in the freshly chopped parsley and combine evenly.

Place the entire mixture in a glass or ceramic casserole pan or a cast iron pan. (Almost any oven-safe dish will work.) Dot the top of the stuffing all over with thinly sliced pats of butter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and crispy on top.

Maili's Notes:  Ovens vary dramatically in temperature and size.  If your stuffing hasn't browned after 45 minutes, you can turn your oven up to 400 degrees for the last ten minutes of cooking. You can also cook it in advance for 35 minutes, cover it with foil and keep it warm for up to two hours and then put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes to crisp it up just before serving.

The link for my Apple Brandy, Raisin Pecan Cornbread Stuffing is here.  It can be baked on it's own as a side dish to accompany any fall or winter meal.


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