Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Loaded Thanksgiving Stuffing

I am very particular about stuffing—it has to be moist, full of flavor, and free of giblets.  And I have a confession to make:  I really like Stove Top stuffing.  Yes, I enjoy stuffing from a mix.  But for Thanksgiving, the stuff from a box just doesn’t cut it.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that was given to me by a dear woman who mentored me through college.  She was an amazing cook and often prepared meals for large groups of people.  While the original recipe is amazing, I have altered it to fit my family’s preferences.

Chicken apple sausage is now available in most grocery stores.  I buy a local brand, Aidells, but there are countless companies that make it.  It definitely exceeds my $2/lb. limit on meat, but I only make this stuffing once or twice a year.

To help keep the cost down, I buy the nuts and dried fruit from the bulk bins at WinCo, and I make the broth from bouillon, using 2 tsp. for each cup of water.

Toasting nuts deepens their flavor.  To toast the pecans, simply put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them at 350° for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.

I love using my Pampered Chef food chopper for nuts.

Before toasting
After toasting--notice the darker color

This can also be done in a dry skillet over medium-high heat.  Be sure to stir the nuts often to avoid burning.

Though you can use a pear in this recipe, I am allergic to them so I always use an apple.  Fuji apples are my go-to apple for everything.  They are great in this recipe because they do not get soggy or mushy.  One of my favorite apple tricks is to use my melon baller to remove the core.  Just as I use my egg slicer for olives and strawberries and my potato masher for refried beans, I do not believe my melon baller should be used only for melons.

Loaded Thanksgiving Stuffing
½ c. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 apple or pear, diced
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
¾ c. dried cranberries, raisins, cherries, or a mixture
8 oz. pre-cooked chicken apple sausage, chopped
2 pkgs. (about 10 oz. each) herb stuffing
4-5 c. chicken broth or stock

In large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent.  Add celery, apple, pecans, cranberries, and sausage.  Continue to cook until soft.

Pour stuffing into large bowl, add vegetable mixture, and stir to mix.  Gradually add broth to moisten as desired.

Transfer to buttered casserole.  Bake, covered, at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.  Remove lid for last 5 minutes for a slightly crispy top.  Yield:  enough to stuff a large turkey* and fill a 3-quart casserole.  (Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the finished product before it got eaten.  Imagine the above picture but a lot darker.)

Make ahead directions:  This can be made the day ahead and refrigerated before baking.  Allow extra baking time.

You can also make the sausage and vegetable mixture and refrigerate it before mixing into the stuffing mix.  Because this recipe makes so much stuffing, I make it to this point and divide the sausage and vegetable mixture in half if I am just cooking for my family.  I mix one half into one package of stuffing and moisten with 2-2 1/2 cups of broth.  I freeze the other half of the mixture for another batch later.

*If you choose to stuff your turkey, be sure to follow the food safety guidelines found at the links from Sunday's post.

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