22 October, 2008

How to Make Great Stuffing

Thanksgiving is coming, and for many of us that means turkey, stuffing, and gravy. There are a lot of stuffing recipes out there, and I've tried a bunch of them. But I still come back to the favorite of my childhood, good ol' traditional sage-and-onion stuffing. I like it best when it's cooked inside the bird, but that's not always practical. For instance, my family prefers turkeys from the smoker rather than the roaster, and smoked stuffing isn't as delicious as smoked bird. So, I make my stuffing on the stovetop. It's almost as yummy as the "real thing." If you'd like to give it a try, here's my method - in plenty of time for the holiday, and easy enough to make any time you want some stuffing.

This particular batch was made to go with a roasted chicken, and made enough for four generous servings. Ramp up the quantities appropriately, and you can make as much as you need. On Thanksgiving, I'll be making enough to serve fifteen.

Start by removing the fat from the cavity of the bird, along with the skin from the neck. Use a sharp knife and score the fat and skin part of the way through on both sides.

In a skillet over medium-low heat, slowly try out the fat. The scores cut in the fat will keep it from curling up as you render the fat. Do a thorough job and cook the fat and skin until it's completely crispy so you have plenty of fat in the pan.

Pour off some of the fat from the pan, but reserve it in case you need it later. Add a finely chopped onion to the hot fat, along with two or three finely chopped celery ribs (including the leaves if possible,) and a handful of parsely, a generous amount of pepper, and salt to taste. (Remember that this is enough for four servings. Increase the amount if you're making stuffing for a crowd.) Stir over medium heat, sauteeing until the onions are amber and translucent, but not browned.

Add your favorite poultry seasoning. I use Bell's Seasoning, but if you don't live in the Northeast, you may not be able to find it - just use whatever you (or your Mom or Grandmother) have always used. For four servings as shown here, I start with half a teaspoon and adjust later. Stir the poultry seasoning well into the mix.

Keeping the mix over medium heat, add fresh bread crumbs made by grating whatever fresh or day-old (but not dried-out) bread you have. You can use hamburger or hot dog rolls, sliced bread, sesame buns, whatever you like. You'll need about a cup of crumbs per serving, or maybe more if you and your guests really love stuffing.

Keep the heat under the pan as you stir the stuffing. The crumbs will become coated with delicious chickeny flavor from the fat and the herbs in the poultry seasoning will get distributed all throughout the mix. Keep stirring and tossing as the stuffing heats through and starts to brown a bit. Go for a pale golden brown.

Drizzle the stuffing with chicken broth a teaspoon at a time, tossing and stirring well after each addition, until it's moist and clumpy, just like it would be if it came out of the bird. Keep the heat on under the pan while you do this - the steam created will help the stuffing stay fluffy and moist. As you do this, taste the stuffing and make sure the seasoning is correct. You can sprinkle in more salt, pepper, or poultry seasoning while you're finishing it up here.

Check it out: Delicious stuffing, stovetop style without coming from a box, and it will taste like you spooned it out of a roasted bird.


lunaburning said...

This looks amazing! Now I have to go buy a chicken just so I can make this stuffing.

Anonymous said...


Just pulling your leg ... you've
described pretty much what I do,
except you use twice the celery,
plus I put in thyme as well, from
which you can guess that this comes
from your faithful reader


Oh, as I don't smoke my poultry, I
use excess dripping to baste the
stuffing in addition to the broth.

Michele said...

I love that you use bread crumbs! That is the only way to make a proper stuffing. I really hate it when there are chunks of bread in my stuffing. (hope my mother doesn't hear me say that!)