Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Eats : It's All About The Stuffing

You are probably thinking Thanksgiving's behind us, so why the Thanksgiving food on the blog today? That's the awesome thing about Thanksgiving food - it doubles perfectly as a Christmas meal!  We're only 25 days away from the next big feast, so why not get that meal planning going {if you haven't already}.  Who knows, maybe you might find something new you'd like to try!

I'm kicking this little food series off with a favorite side dish in this house - the stuffing.  I will just say that no matter how big the turkey, there is never enough stuffing.  Sure there are plenty of leftovers, but this stuffing {to our family at least} is so awesome that it just doesn't last long enough in this house!  And it has got to be done in the turkey, and there is a limit to how much you can stuff into the bird!

I am a transplant to the South.  I was born in Ohio and at the tender age of 1, my family relocated to Canada, where I would live until my mid-20s.  From there I moved to Texas for over 10 years and now I'm in South Carolina.  I live in the South, but this stuffing is not southern.  When I think "southern", I think cornbread.  This is not a cornbread stuffing.  This is the stuffing I grew up on.  It's the stuffing my mom used to make and in 1999 she passed along her recipe collection for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

We're going to just focus on the stuffing for now.  It is so simple and it is so delicious!  Here's what you need:

1 lb pork sausage meat {i.e. Jimmy Dean sausage - you know the ground sausage meat - not links!}
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of minced onion
1 loaf of day old bread {but honestly, if you forgot to leave it out, you can use a fresh loaf}
2 Tbsp parsley
2  Tbsp dried sage
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 peeled apple, diced

The first thing I do is to get that sausage unwrapped, into the pot, and nicely chopped up with your wooden spoon.  Start browning the meat on medium heat and then get chopping!  Chop up your celery and onion and get those into the pot along with the sausage meat.

Once those are into the pot, I start on the apple.  I have an apple peeler corer slicer which has got to be my single most favorite kitchen gadget.  This makes quick work of peeling and coring your apple.  If you don't have one of these, just be sure to peel, core, slice and dice your apple.  Then get it into the pot with the sausage, celery and onions.

You're going to combine all of those ingredients and then you'll want to throw in your spices {parsley, sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper as listed above}.  It may seem like a lot of spices for what's in the pot, but don't forget that you're going to be adding a loaf of bread in a moment!

While everything is cooking up in your pot, start slicing your loaf of bread into cubes.  I usually take a stack of 5 or 6 slices and start slicing away, making a nice pile of bread cubes as I go.  I throw that pile into the pot, combine with everything else, and then get back to the bread slicing.  Just continue this process until the entire loaf is cubed and in the pot.  You might want to use a pretty big pot right off the bat or you won't have enough room!

Let that all cook together, but turn down the heat a little as the stuffing is fairly dry and will start burning on the bottom of the pot if the heat is too high.  Let that cook about 10 minutes or so.  In the meantime, you will have prepared your turkey in your roasting pan.  I like to stuff my turkey before I do any seasoning of the turkey itself.  The first thing I do is to stuff the neck end of the turkey.  There'll be a nice big flap of skin over the neck cavity.  Carefully stuff in as much stuffing mixture as you can and then close over that flap.  You can use a small metal skewer to "pin" the flap closed so nothing falls out.  But if some stuffing falls out during the turkey cooking phase, it'll just add extra flavor to the drippings which you'll need later anyway!  Next you will stuff the body cavity of the turkey.  I stuff the entire rest of the stuffing mixture {or as much as is humanly possible} into the body.  Again, you can use a little metal skewer to hold everything in.  I always cover both ends with pieces of foil so that the stuffing that is exposed won't burn.

Now, I'm going to leave the actual turkey recipe for another post, but here's what our bird looked like once if was finished cooking {and I will make a separate note that when you are cooking your turkey, please ensure that you follow your cooking instructions carefully as we all know that there are dangers associated with consuming undercooked or raw poultry - I will not be held responsible if you don't cook your turkey thoroughly!}:

I let the turkey rest for a bit before doing anything with it.  Unfortunately I am not resting while the turkey is!  This is the time when I'm busy prepping other side dishes and making the gravy!  Once I'm able to get back to the business of the turkey, I remove any foil and metal skewers from the bird.  I grab a nice covered dish and set about unstuffing the turkey.  That flap over the neck is usually kind of crispy since it's just skin with no meat under it.  What I usually do is grab a knife and cut out an opening in the neck area that will make scooping the stuffing out as easy and mess-free as I can.  Once the neck is emptied, I start unpacking the body cavity.  I am always careful to ensure that every last bit of stuffing is removed from the bird.

This stuffing is so delicious that I now want a huge plate of it topped with gravy.  Unfortunately, I do not have any, so I will just have to sit here and drool along with you all!  It's such a simple recipe that I can't even imagine why you'd use a boxed mix.  There's just something about real homemade stuffing being cooked in the bird.

I hope you enjoy this stuffing as much as we all do!!
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