It's bread pudding, and that gives you a clue right there. I love bread. I love pudding. Pour on the butter and let's have a party.
I make two stuffings, one traditional and one for the vegetarians, although that's a bit of a joke because the carnivores eat all the veggie dressing too.
I used to buy loaves of bread and dry them out before cutting them into cubes by hand, but I decided that is not where the labor-intensive hours count. Instead, I support buying unseasoned bread crumbs ahead of time. The key is UNseasoned. Seasoning is an area where you can make your homemade stuffing shine.
Buy fresh herbs. Actually, if you live near me, come over and get some for free, because I have enough parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme to sink a dingy off of Plymouth Rock.
Just cooking up fresh herbs in butter and garlic is enough to set the whole day right. Saute them with your onion, your celery, and if you want my other secret, diced fennel bulb. YUM. You can even skip the celery entirely if you want.
My famous star of the stuffing comes next: I chop up oysters and saute them... more butter, please! I love the taste of shellfish in poultry dressing. Of course you have the sizzling ground sausage mixed in there as as well... pork, shellfish, and turkey flavors cannot be beat! Sometimes I add baby shrimp, too.
I'm big on nutmeats. Pecans. I have a Cajun feel for stuffing. If I could come up with 'gator meat to throw in, I bet it would be heaven. Brazil nuts, or pine nuts work alright too, but remember this is NOT a candy bar. Peanuts and almonds are not your friend in the stuffing department.
I like raisins. I like capers. I like to throw everything in but the kitchen sink as long as I think it will harmonize.
I always buy a separate package of giblets and livers to cook, just for the stuffing. You can't get enough of that stoned turkey flavor.
I learned a great lesson from a Cauldron cooking class I took at Mariquita Farm: the most flavorful part of any bird comes from the gelatinous body parts. That's why chicken feet are the quintessential flavor orgasm of any hen. More than anything you can do to enhance your chicken stock, it's the feet that make it POP.
During class, we cooked in an enormous witch-size iron cauldron, so I cleaned about 100 chicken feet. Nasty things they are, especially for a sheltered city girl like me! They made me think, "so this is what dinosaur toes must have looked like."
But the flavor of the broth was off the hook. I don't blame you if you use canned broth, but if you're determined to make homemade stock, get some of those feet from the butcher. Just a handful will make you a shaman in the kitchen.
What do you like in your stuffing? Are you a purist, or surrealist when it comes to additions?
I hope you are taking a slow weekend with family and friends, whether you're munching on bird or Sushi or Cadbury bars! I'm very thankful for all your support and good words this year, and I look forward to more of the same!
Some mad satire for you:
"Pardoned Turkey" to be He Held at Guantanamo
Scenes from a Bush Thanksgiving