We Tested Five Stuffing Recipes for Thanksgiving

We Tested Five Stuffing Recipes for Thanksgiving
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffing. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

When all the dishes in the kitchen are in use and the turkey has been in the oven since dawn, having a make-ahead stuffing ready to heat up can make celebrating Thanksgiving a breeze.

Padding can be very particular to homes. My brothers prefer my mother's giblet filling to my traditional version with sourdough bread. Most of us no longer bake our stuffing inside our birds, opting not to add the difficulty of balancing the temperature of the turkey with the stuffing on an already busy day in the kitchen.

So if we're baking our fillings in a casserole dish a day or two before Thanksgiving, we want the dish to shine. We asked some of our most experienced cooks in the Taste section to prepare a variety of fillings from popular chefs or websites. Here's what we ended up with and our thoughts on each offering.

One of our cooks summed up the highlight of this tasting by saying, "You have to know your people and know if they're going to freak out if you do something different."

Oyster Dressing

We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is oyster dressing
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is oyster dressing [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

Personal chef Kay Hodnett took on one of the more challenging choices: an oyster dressing with a Cajun twist. The dressing includes cooked bacon and four dozen shelled oysters. We used canned oysters but followed the rest of the recipe from the Food & Wine magazine website. This recipe had so much flavor and a definite wow factor.

One thing we would do is add more vegetables to the recipe. The dish had onions and bell peppers, but we decided it would be fine to add anything from leeks to carrots while sauteing the bacon at the beginning of the recipe. Also, the recipe calls for finely chopped vegetables, but we think it would be nice to have larger pieces to give the filling more flavor. The seafood lovers on our panel were especially impressed with this dish.

2 ounces slab bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter

1 celery rib, cut into ¼-inch pieces

½ green bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch pieces

½ small onion, finely diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large baguettes (about 1 pound), diced into ½-inch pieces (12 cups)

4 dozen shucked oysters plus 1 cup oyster liquor, oysters halved (2 cups)

2 scallions, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow 10-by-14-inch baking dish. In a large skillet, cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the celery, green pepper, onion, and minced garlic and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put the diced baguettes in a large bowl. Pour bacon mixture on top. Add the oysters and their liqueur along with the spring onions and parsley. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the hot sauce and salt. Pour the eggs into the bowl and mix everything together. Scrape the dressing into the prepared baking dish and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until heated through and crisp on top. Serve hot.

Note: Baked Oyster Dressing can be refrigerated overnight and reheated before serving.

Source: foodandwine.com

Sourdough, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Dressing

We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Sourdough, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Dressing.
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Sourdough, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Dressing. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

Janet Keeler, Food Writing Instructor at USF St. Petersburg and Freelance Writing Team Editor at The Penny Hoarder, put together Chef Bobby Flay's Sourdough, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Dressing. The dish was a complete success, without a doubt, but it was not easy. "To me, it would never be something to make on Thanksgiving, but if you were bringing something special to a potluck, it would be perfect," said Keeler, who would also make this stuffing a day in advance if she were making a full Thanksgiving meal. thanks. . She also thought that it would be acceptable to change the type of mushrooms. Our tasters liked the crunch of the meaty mushrooms in the filling and the punchiness of the dish.

Unsalted butter for the baking dish

1 ¼ pounds sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, bread cut into ½-inch cubes (about 12 cups)

½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped

½ pound oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons canola oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

¾ pound slab bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 large Spanish onion, finely diced

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 to 6 cups chicken broth, as needed

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.

Spread the bread out in an even layer on a large baking sheet (or two smaller baking sheets). Bake, stirring several times, until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer the cubes to a very large bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

In a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet, combine mushrooms with 3 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat. Spice with salt and pepper. Grill, stirring several times, until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

While the mushrooms are roasting, in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and fat has melted, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat from the pan. Place skillet over high heat, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of broth, the parsley, sage and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Add the roasted mushrooms and bacon to the bowl with the bread. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then add a few tablespoons of the warm broth mixture. Add the eggs and the rest of the broth mixture to the bread, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. The bandage must be very moist; add more broth as needed.

Scrape bread mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook

Dorothy’s Stuffing

We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Dorothy’s Stuffing, from Gretchen and Dave Letterman's mom.
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Dorothy’s Stuffing, from Gretchen and Dave Letterman’s mom. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

We invited former Times editor Gretchen Letterman to prepare a recipe from her mother Dorothy's cookbook, Home Cooking with Dave's Mom. The book was promoted by her brother, former late-night talk show host David Letterman. Preparing her mother's recipe was more complicated than Letterman had anticipated, in part because some of the details were missing from the print version. She did it three times to get the dry bread texture just right. "My mother's stuffing is a favorite memory of traditional Thanksgiving dinners that she put on the table," Letterman said. “In 2021, the old-fashioned recipe included in her cookbook just needed a few tweaks. I think she would approve. Interestingly, one of the things Letterman did was change the amount of onion to two large onions instead of three onions because "onions have gotten giant since his days," she said. Letterman's recipe was the most traditional of the options, with a mix of flavors and sturdy bread pieces. It had crispy and smooth textures.

1 Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread loaf (or any loaf equivalent to 9 cups of bread cubes)

6 ribs celery with leaves, thinly sliced

2 large onions, chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into pieces

1 stick (½ cup) salted butter

1 ½ teaspoons dried sage leaves

1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1 ½ teaspoons salt (added by Gretchen to the original recipe)

1 egg

1 cup milk

½ cup chicken broth, more as needed

A day or two before making the filling, spread the bread slices out on a cookie sheet, cover with a kitchen towel. Flip at some point to ensure even drying on both sides. On the day of baking, lightly toast the bread slices in the oven, 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. You can skip the drying and just use the oven, but double drying makes the bread absorb liquids without becoming mushy.

Stack three to four slices of bread and cut into ¾-inch cubes.

While you slice the celery and chop the onion, put the cut potato in 2 cups of water and cook until soft. Drain the water and make mashed potatoes, reserve.

In a large skillet, melt butter and sauté celery and onion. Add the bread cubes, sage, thyme, and salt. Beat the egg in the milk and add the potato, pouring the mixture over the bread cubes. Add chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, mixing gently with a spatula over low heat until well combined and bread is desired consistency. If the mixture is too dry, add more chicken broth a little at a time; don't let the bread get soggy.

Bake in a pan, 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

Source: Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom (Pocket Books 1996); revised by Gretchen Letterman

Carla’s Spoon Bread Dressing

We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Carla’s Spoon Bread Dressing.
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Carla’s Spoon Bread Dressing. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

I made Chef Carla Hall's Spoon Bread Dressing, which was a bit more like a corn pudding/cornbread that could be served in addition to the traditional filling. The texture was a heavenly combination of whole kernel corn and finely ground yellow cornmeal.

“This is the perfect recipe for people with small kitchens or little time,” Hall said when we told him we were making the dish. “Because it's a dip-flavored spoonbread, it's easier to make the cornbread ahead of time. I also love the smooth texture with turkey and gravy.”

We agreed. A note of personal preference: the bright yellow color of the dish dies down a bit with the addition of the poultry seasoning. I might cut that ingredient down a bit on my next try with this recipe because I liked the vibrant yellow color better. A couple of tasters suggested that we could also add cheese to this recipe.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

1 celery stalk, finely diced (½ cup)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 cups whole milk

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup fine stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of butter to generously grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt. cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until tender. Add poultry seasoning; cook and stir 1 minute.

Add milk, water and sugar; bring to a boil Continuously whisk the mixture as you pour in the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream. Cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until the cornmeal has absorbed all of the liquid and is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add corn and baking powder. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes or until lukewarm, stirring frequently to prevent lumps from forming.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs for 5 to 7 minutes or until pale yellow and very foamy with no liquid remaining. Add the beaten eggs, one-third at a time, to the cornmeal mixture, gently folding until just incorporated. Spread evenly in the prepared dish.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and firm and tops spring back when touched gently. Let cool slightly before serving (spoon bread may fall over during cooling).

Source: Carla Hall

Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffing

We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffing.
We tried different stuffings for Thanksgiving. This is Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffing. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Special to the Times ]

Home cook Julie Overton made a slow cooker sausage stuffing that sounded like a great idea to save time and bread. Overall the flavors were traditional and satisfying but the filling was a bit soggy. We decided that the texture was a result of the steam not being able to escape from the slow cooker. We thought it might be worth making ahead of time and toasting it in the oven before serving. Also, be sure to cut the sausage into small pieces so they aren't so big that they overpower the plate.

1 pound loaf French bread, diced into 1-inch cubes and allowed to dry out for about 12 hours

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced into ¼-inch pieces

1 extra-large sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, diced small (about 2 cups)

1 cup celery, diced small

3 tablespoons fresh rosemary (sticks discarded), finely minced

3 tablespoons fresh sage (stems discarded), finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh thyme (sticks discarded), finely minced

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 pound ground Italian sausage (sausage should be raw and not precooked)

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Place bread inside a 6-quart slow cooker that has been lined with slow cooker liner or sprayed with cooking spray. Let the bread dry and go stale for about 12 hours (overnight).

The next day, add the butter, onion, celery, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, and chicken broth and stir to combine.

Evenly crumble raw sausage into small, bite-sized pieces over bread mixture.

Cover and simmer for about 4 to 5 hours, or until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through. (Slow cookers vary in intensity, so cook until done.)

Add sausage to bread mixture, taste and check balance of seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or additional herbs if desired, to taste.

Add the parsley and stir to incorporate. Cover and cook for 5 minutes before serving. Adding the parsley at the end allows it to stay green.

The filling can be made up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Source: food blogger Averie Sunshine at averiecooks.com

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