The Right Stuff: Stuffings & Dressings for Your Thanksgiving Dinner
Much Ado About Stuffing
In the North, they eat stuffing, those in the South prefer the more genteel term “dressing”. Philadelphians have their “filling.”
There are regional influences as well, based on the availability of local ingredients.
- Boston Grandmas always include oysters.
- Mennonite moms add leftover (?) mashed potatoes.
- In the South, it’s not a true dressing without cornbread (or bits of leftover stale biscuits. And the addition of a little salt pork would be OK too).
- San Francisco cooks add another dimension with sourdough bread.
- In the Great Lake States, wild rice and cranberries are so much more healthy.
And then, there is the never-ending controversy over whether or not stuffing (or dressing) is actually STUFFED.
Please stop the merry-go-round. I’m getting dizzy.
Who's To Blame?
Did the Pilgrims inflict this controversy on us? The “first Thanksgiving” has been romanticized ever since, well, the 1st Thanksgiving, or at least the proclamation of the fourth Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanks (and that happened in 1864 under the pen of President Abraham Lincoln).
Actually the story begins long before Lincoln, long before the Pilgrims, and long before explorers crossed the Atlantic.
Sometime between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. there was a Roman gourmet named Marcus Gavius Apicius, a lover of all the finer things in life. He is credited with compiling a cookbook, but the sources I have read doubt that he was the actual author. However, his name became synonymous with all things gourmand; Apicius de re Coquinaria was published in the late 4th or early 5th century A.D.
The aforementioned cookbook contains recipes for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pig, and (can you believe it?), even dormouse. The main ingredients in those tasty treats included (but were not limited to) vegetables, herbs, nuts, chopped liver, and BRAINS.
Thank Goodness Our Tastes Have Improved...
…or at least changed (although personally, the thought of oysters in stuffing/dressing makes me feel a bit queasy).
I don't intend to resolve this controversy. Like the polemics of Creationism vs. Darwinism, faith vs. good works, or ketchup vs. mustard on hot dogs, some beliefs can never be shaken. But what I can do is provide you with a robust sampling of the very best examples of stuffing, dressing, and filling available.
However, May I Share One More Story?
I fondly remember Thanksgiving Day dinners in our home. My brother, sister, and their children would all gather around the table with us to feast on Mom's wonderful turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. But then...there was the stuffing. For some "I don't know why!" reason, Mom always added raisins to her bread stuffing.
Look around the table. Every one of us would have a polite little pile of raisins on the edge of our plates (we hated the raisins!), all except for Daddy.
And so one day I asked my Dad about the stuffing. "Do you love raisins in your stuffing?" "No," he answered, "but I love your Momma."
Recipes In This Article
- Simple bread stuffing
- Wild rice stuffing
- Southern cornbread dressing
- Butternut-sausage stuffing
- Slow-cooker stuffing
- Stuffing in a bundt pan
- Vegan cauliflower sage stuffing
- Amish potato filling
- Savannah seafood stuffing
- Oyster stuffing
- Mom's celery bread stuffing
Simple Bread Stuffing
This simple bread stuffing from Bon Appetit magazine is flavored with onions and fresh herbs, showing that sometimes less is more.
Wild Rice Stuffing
Southern Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread AND stale biscuits star in this authentic southern cornbread dressing recipe from Robyn's AddAPinch blog.
Can you be on a paleo diet and still enjoy a hearty stuffing? You can if you follow Michele's recipe for this side dish filled with sweet butternut squash, savory sausage, and tart apples and cranberries.
Stuffing in a Bundt Pan
Let's face it, bread stuffing tastes great but sometimes it isn't very pretty. KimsHealthyEats has found a way to turn simple stuffing into a show-stopper by baking it in a Bundt pan.
Vegan Cauliflower Sage Stuffing
Amish Potato Filling
Pamela (the BrooklynFarmGirl) is a "recipe maker, urban farmer, vegetable grower, film director, mama to 5 cats, and she makes a mean dish of Amish potato stuffing
Savannah Seafood Stuffing
This recipe from SpicySouthernKitchen for seafood stuffing proves that you really can have it all. Imagine fresh vegetables, wheat bread, corn bread, herbs, spices, shrimp and crab all in one delectable dish?
This recipe appeared in the final issue of Gourmet Magazine:
- 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 8 slices firm white sandwich bread)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3 dozen shucked oysters (preferably medium; halved if large; about 1 cup), drained if necessary and gently patted dry
- Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
- Spread bread crumbs in a 4-sided sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.
- Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gently stir in oysters and bread crumbs.
- Pour into baking dish and bake until custard is set and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cooks' note: Bread crumbs can be toasted 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Mom's Celery Bread Stuffing (Without the Raisins)
And finally, here is the recipe for my mom's bread stuffing. She always used day-old bread. If your bread isn't stale, you can dry the cubes in a 200 degrees F oven for about 1 hour.
- 10-12 cups of day-old bread cubes (this is about 1 loaf)
- 3/4 cup butter or margarine
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 4 stalks celery, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 to 1 cup turkey broth
- Place bread cubes in large mixing bowl; set aside.
- Melt butter or margarine in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened. Stir in seasonings.
- Pour onion/butter mixture over bread cubes. Toss to coat. Taste for seasoning.
- If mixture seems dry, add a bit of broth.
- Makes enough stuffing for a 12-pound bird, or bake in a greased casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Linda Lum