Every Thanksgiving the one thing I look forward to most is the stuffing. I really could care less about the turkey. For me that is the vessel by which you cook the stuffing.
This is the stuffing my Grandmother (on my father’s side) made and we used to have it every year. It was one of the first recipes of hers I took from my mother. As with many grandmothers, the things she cooked were normally not written down in recipe form, it was all a pinch of this, a couple of these, etc. (as you’ll see). Thankfully, my mother recorded them as best she could when she was learning them. I had a pretty special bond with my Grandmother, we had the same birthday, and I remember her a lot around this time of year when I make this recipe and her special Hungarian Christmas “cookies” in December.
Anyway, as I said, this stuffing recipe is the best one ever. It never dries out. Seriously. It’s always moist and has awesome flavor. It needs no gravy (but go ahead and put some on it). When I first made this for Cheryl she was very, no, extremely skeptical of it because of the sausage. She’d never heard of putting it in your stuffing. Crazy talk, she said. That changed after one bite. Now she’s one of the biggest fans. It’s always the first leftover we run out of. I don’t know anyone who’s eaten it and then said they didn’t like it.
Without further delay…here it is:
- 2 loaves of Italian bread (I go with plain, no sesame seeds on it, and DO NOT substitute pre-fab croutons or stuffing mix. If you’re going to do that just stop right here!)
- 1-1 ½ lbs of bulk sweet Italian sausage (you can use encased sausage, just remove the casing and break up)
- 1-2 onions, chopped
- 16 oz fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
- Celery and parsley (I kid you not this is how the recipe reads, basically it’s however much you want to put in, I use 2-3 stalks of celery medium dice, and about ½ C of chopped parsley)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Salt and pepper
A day or two before Thanksgiving (I do it on Tuesday to be safe) take your bread loaves and tear up into 1-2” chunks. Put them on some baking sheets and allow them to dry out completely. You may need to turn the pieces over on the tray when one side dries out to ensure this. Being completely dried out is important for some strange reason. I don’t know the science behind it but it will make a difference that is very discernable when the stuffing is cooked. (Trust me, my father always thinks he can take a short cut with this by putting the pieces in a big bowl in the oven overnight and they’ll be fine. My step-mother thought this too. Drives me nuts. He always gets the bread with sesame seeds too. When you’re eating it you hit this pocket of gummy bread where a piece wasn’t dried out completely. This is why I let the bread dry out over two days.)
Ok so Thanksgiving day, take your sausage, onions, mushrooms, celery and parsley and fry them all together in big chunk of butter. ½ a stick will do. Recipe says “don’t be stingy” with the butter. (And yes, all together. None of this browning your sausage first nonsense. All together.) When the sausage is cooked and the vegetables are softened take it off the stove and let the mixture cool.
Now, fill up a large mixing bowl with some warm water. Take a handful of your dried out bread and dip the pieces into the water letting them soak it up. Squeeze out the water so the bread has a “meatball consistency” (again the recipe says this! don’t question just squeeze out the water). Repeat until you have a bowl full of soggy, squeezed out bread.
Now add your cooled cooked sausage mixture to the re-hydrated squeezed out bread. Just use your hands and mix them together. Mix in the 2 beaten eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the turkey. This recipe is enough to stuff your bird and have some left over to put in a side casserole for cooking separately – cover with foil and bake 30-40 minutes at whatever temperature the turkey is cooked at. When your turkey is done cooking, the stuffing is also done. Scoop it out and put in a serving dish. The stuffing in the cavity is always the best of course.
I can’t wait to make this next week!