Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Nov 14, 2010
10:39 AMSmall Dishes
Stuffing or Dressing?
To begin with, I’m talking turkey. Technically, stuffing goes inside the bird and dressing is baked separately. The two terms are often used interchangeably—it has more to do with where you live than grammar, since “dressing” is favored in the South and “stuffing” elsewhere.
Seemingly the idea of stuffing poultry has been around forever. It’s as much a part of our thanksgiving feast as turkey. In this country, bread and sage stuffing has always been the most popular, though cornbread is nearly always added in the South, and the Pennsylvania Dutch are very fond of what they call potato stuffing. Depending upon your taste and heritage, sausage, rice and fruit may be familiar ingredients.
I’m sure the dish was originally a means to use up stale bread. But today, if you buy commercially baked bread it can have an improbable shelf-life; hence recipes often suggest toasting the bread first. A great debate runs on over whether the bread should be cubed or crumbed. I like both. Traditionally, home-style white bread—the kind you make sandwiches with, but not the squishy stuff—is used. Though, French, sourdough and even whole grain loaves have their fans. I once read that former Vice President Walter Mondale’s secret stuffing ingredient was hot dog buns. The weirdest recipe I ever encountered called for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This past week I saw Marilyn Monroe’s stuffing recipe in The New York Times and oddly it contains no added fat, eggs or binders of any kind but includes chicken livers, hamburger and nuts. Probably the most exotic of stuffed birds is the Turducken, a Cajun special: a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a hen along with cornbread or rice dressing.
I’m a big fan of cornbread dressing, but not at Thanksgiving. I love oysters, but not in stuffing—neither compliment the other. And whether it be stuffing or dressing, whatever goes into it should be simple and real—holidays aren’t the time for heterodoxy.
By now most people knows that the turkey is easier to cook and juicier if you don’t stuff it—excluding a couple of handfuls of chopped, onion and celery. Regardless, its stuffing—with mashed potatoes and gravy—that makes the turkey and Thanksgiving for me.
New England Bread Stuffing
A very old recipe, but if you want to bring it up to date, substitute fresh herbs (use twice as much).
12 cups day-old home-style white bread, cubed or crumbed
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dried sage
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups minced yellow onion
1 cup minced celery
½ cup cold chicken or turkey stock
¼ cup heavy cream
Preheat oven 275 degrees.
Spread the bread out on a cookie sheet and lightly brown in the preheated 275-degree oven (about 20 minutes). Cool.
In a large mixing bowl combine the bread, parsley, sage, salt, thyme, marjoram and pepper. Set aside.
Belt the butter in a sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is very soft but not brown (about 10 minutes). Add the celery and cook another 5 minutes. Add the onion and celery mixture to the bread mixture.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg, stock and cream until just combined. Add to the stuffing mixture and mix well.
Use as a stuffing for turkey or chicken.