Not all stuffing recipes are created equal. Well, actually, they are: Almost all stuffings start with the same ingredients and procedure. It's really only what gets mixed in that makes each one different, but that's what can change the dish entirely. A Thanksgiving stuffing can be sweet or savory, meaty or fruity, crunchy or soft... Personally, I love it all!
As a trained chef I tend to take control of Thanksgiving meal most of the time; but, the stuffing is always the dish my relatives want to bring to dinner to showcase their own "secret" formulas. I like to think of it as the Thanksgiving wildcard—you never know what to expect. (I think my little cousins feel the same way after last year when I "forgot" to warn them about my smoked oyster and bacon stuffing last year -- Slimy! )
To celebrate all the different-yet-delicious Thanksgiving stuffings that will be gobbled up this week, I collected the Everyday Food team's family stuffing recipes. As I suspected, they were all similar enough to fit into one base recipe but, just like each of our families, were also incredibly different and unique. This Thanksgiving, you can try one of our stuffings, or use the base recipe to create your own dish and tradition. See the recipes and more after the jump!
The Classic Stuffing Base
12 ounces bread, cut into 1-inch (or smaller) cubes (or boxed stuffing bread cubes)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 stalks celery, diced medium
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional—add this egg if you like your stuffing clumped together)
2 to 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. If using fresh bread, cut to preferred cube size and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes, until cubes are dry and lightly golden.
2 In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in sage and thyme, and garlic cook 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl with bread and toss to combine.
3 Stir in parsley (and other desired mix-ins, see below), egg (if desired), and chicken broth. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil, and bake, 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until edges begin to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
The family secrets...
Jessie's Uncle Gary's Stuffing
- Use 12-ounces sourdough bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Add 2 diced Granny Smith apples to celery mixture.
- Mix in 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/4 cup dried cranberries.
- Use 1 egg, and about 2 cups chicken stock.
Sam's Mother-in-Law Deborah's Gluten-Free Stuffing
- 1 (12-ounce) loaf gluten-free white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Mix in 1 pound cooked and crumbled sweet Italian chicken or turkey sausage.
- Use 1 egg and about 2 cups chicken stock.
Merritt's Mom Rita's Stuffing
- Use 1 box Mrs. Cubbison's Herb Seasoned Cube Stuffing (we couldn't find it here in NY, so any 12-ounce boxed variety would work).
- Mix in some more fresh herbs (Rita has a year-round herb garden in California—Lucky!).
- Use about 2 cups chicken broth (and dot with more butter before baking, if desired).
Sarah's Mom Susan's Stuffing
- Use 12-ounces crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Mix in 1 (29-ounce) can cling peaches in heavy syrup, syrup reserved (1 cup). Cut about half the peaches in half.
- Whisk together reserved peach syrup with 1/2 cup thawed orange juice concentrate to use in place of the chicken broth. (Add about 1/2 cup chicken broth if needed.)
All photos by Bryan Gardner.