It’s what makes our Thanksgiving menu such a special, family-favorite menu. It is everyone’s favorite—back when I was a kid, when our kids were little, and now. It’s the #1 choice when we ask, “so, what should we have for Thanksgiving this year?”
Unfortunately, my brothers and I never thought to ask mom or grandma for the recipe. But fortunately, we all agree it was simple and basic. After lots of searching and testing, I have a close contender from one of my favorite gurus, America’s Test Kitchen, and have also found a video from Epicurous.com that confirms some of my suspicions about how to make the recipe great. This year will be the ultimate (I hope) test.
The KPI’s (Key Performace Indicators) are:
- Hand-torn bread: I can still see my Mom sitting in front of the TV on the night before Thanksgiving—watching the Perry Como Christmas Special—as she tears two loaves of Wonder Bread into the roasting pan. Some recipes call for cutting your bread of choice bread, such as brioche or challah, into 1/2″ pieces. I’m sure that hand-tearing yields a lot of little texture bits along the edges of the unevenly-sized pieces. There’s some magic in that.
- Simple ingredient list: Grandma’s recipe was simplicity itself—bread, onion, celery, and egg. Probably salt and pepper, but I’m not sure. When Aunt Shirley joined our family and we had Thanksgiving at her house, she introduced us, or me at least, to sage dressing. For all I know, she may have parsley, rosemary, and thyme in there, too. I like sage in many dishes, but not in my classic Thanksgiving stuffing. We’ll agree to disagree on this one.
- The right moistness: I remember the stuffing as pretty moist—and this was perfection—the real essence of stuffing greatness. I’ve tried recipes that left the stuffing way too dry, but have never made it too moist. If you get there, trying baking a bit longer.
In or out of the bird?
My mom and dad always stuffed the bird, and then made a casserole on the side because again, the stuffing is the crowning touch of our Thanksgiving dinner, and extremely popular. The inside stuffing was always better with more turkey juice flavor. However, I never stuff the bird these days since I realize how much this lengthens the roasting time and adds unnecessary complications to an already nerve wracking last-hour-before-serving-the-Thanksgiving-dinner chaos.
Stuffing or Dressing?
- 9 x 13 baking pan
- 12" skillet
- 1 1/2 lbs white bread I prefer Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse® Hearty White.
- 6 tbsp butter If unsalted, keep that in mind when seasoning.
- 2 medium onions Diced.
- 3 stalks celery Diced.
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley Chopped fine. Or use 1/8 teaspoon dried.
- 4 cups chicken stock Or, use your own turkey stock.
- 2 large eggs Mixed thoroughly with a fork or whisk.
- Preheat oven to 275°.
- Tear a 1 1/2 lb loaf of white bread into 1/2" average pieces.Yes, the heels, too.
- Spread the bread pieces out on two sheet pans and place in oven.
- Bake for 45 minutes, turning the sheet pans, and switching between oven racks after 25 minutes.
- Remove bread pieces from oven and let cool completely for at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a pre-heated (medium) skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onion and celery until very soft and brownish, but not burnt. Mix in eggs and parsley.
- In a big bowl, mix together the bread bits and onion-celery sauté.
- Spread the mixture in a 9" x 13" Pyrex baking dish, or equivalent.
- Baked your stuffing for 1 hour. Check to see if it's done and bake some more or not. Serve and enjoy!
- Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse® Hearty White — This really is a great white bread for any occasion where you’re still eating white bread.