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Stuffing Column

Its Thanksgiving time and everyone is talking turkey! Therefore, lets be different and we’re going to talk stuffing! (or in some circles, mostly southern, the term is “dressing”. Stuffing recipes and traditions are many and extremely diverse. Stuffing actually dates back to Roman Cuisine in the 1500’s. There really is a purpose for stuffing, besides the fact that is just tastes so darn good. Stuffing helps keep the interior of the bird moist by absorbing and holding extra juices and fats. However, the trend to stuff birds has waned with fears of food borne illnesses. Undercooked stuffing may contain raw poultry juices which can harbor dangerous bacteria. One easy way to ensure the safety of your stuffing is to use an instant read meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature of the stuffing itself is 160* or higher. Another safety rule is to NEVER pack the cavity… loosely fill so the stuffing does not become too compact and not cook thoroughly to the safe temperature. Lastly, one should only stuff a turkey that is to be baked in the oven. Do not stuff any turkey that is to be grilled, smoked, fried or (gasp!) microwaved. If you are still leery of stuffing your bird this should do the trick! Place in an oven-proof casserole dish, tightly cover and bake for 45 min at 350*. And you’ll have extra roasting pan juices to make great gravy to boot!!!

Classic bread stuffing consists mainly of bread, sage, celery and onions, mixed together, stuffed in the clean cavity of a turkey, hen, fowl or any combination of all or more and roasted within and with the cooking of the bird. But as I mentioned before, there are as many varieties of stuffing as there are feathers on a turkey! Here are some to ponder: Oyster Stuffing from Louisiana; Wild Rice Stuffing from Minnesota; Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Stuffing; Urban Cuisine with Truffles, Chestnuts, Pancetta, Dried Fruits; Southwestern Style with Green Chiles and Blue Cornbread; Caribbean with Chick Peas and Rice; and of course Cornbread, Bourbon and Pecan from Kentucky (see recipe below!)

Personally, I think the only way to cook stuffing is in the bird. You really can’t mimic the infusion of flavor that the bird itself lends to the dish. However, the FDA does not recommend this method for the reasons we discussed above. You decide which way you feel most comfortable. Leftover stuffing makes a great bottom for that classic Thanksgiving leftover, The Hot Brown. It also can be frozen in smaller portions and served again! It’s a wonderful reminder of the special meal we all savor on Thanksgiving Day!

Both recipes are for a 10 lb. bird.

Basic Bread Stuffing
½ Lb. Butter
1 C. Finely chopped Shallots, Green Onions, or Sweet Yellow
1 C. Finely chopped Celery
8 C. Fresh Bread Crumbs or Cubes, crust and all (I prefer to make these a day
in advance and let sit out to stale… toss them occasionally to help
them dry out a bit
2 T Rubbed Sage
1 T Dried Whole Leaf Thyme
1 C Chopped Italian parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sauté onions and celery in butter. Remove to large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients . Toss well. If baking on the side, dampen with 1 C chicken stock
Any or All Additional Ingredient Options:
*Add 1 Lb. cooked ground pork sausage
*Add 1 pint oysters with liquor (decrease or omit chicken stock)
*Add 1 C. canned, drained chestnuts
*Replace ½ chicken stock with Cognac

Makers Mark Kentucky Corn Bread and Bourbon Stuffing with Pecans
10 T Butter
1 ½ C Finely Chopped Sweet Onions
1 Lb. Spicy Pork Sausage
8 C Crumbled Yellow Cornbread (follow directions above to prep day ahead)
2 T Sage
2 T Dried Whole Leaf Thyme
¼ C. Chopped Parsley
¾ C Bourbon
16 oz canned Wild Cherries, slightly drained and slightly chopped
1 C Dried Cherries
1 C Lightly toasted pecan halves

Saute onions in butter until pale . Remove to large mixing bowl. Brown sausage, breaking into bits. Add to onions. Deglaze pan with ¼ C bourbon. Add with remaining ingredients to bowl remembering to add the other ½ C bourbon! Taste for seasonings and stuff.