Still planning your Thanksgiving dinner menu? I’ve got what you need. This stuffing checks all the boxes: familiar, a tiny bit surprising, savory with just a hint of sweetness.
I think people fall into two camps when it comes to stuffing: you’re either a purist, or an adventurer. The purist wants a vehicle for turkey gravy and mashed potatoes. No fussy stuff, just the basics because it’s not the stuffing’s show. The adventurer is all about the change up. One year it might be fennel and sausage; the next it’s cranberry and toasted pecans. You might even find an oyster or two in there.
I would say I’m firmly in the adventurer’s camp. I am married to a purist. I love the tradition behind the dishes we make and serve during the holidays, and I love the nostalgia and history of the chopping, stirring and baking when so much love gets served up and passed around the table. But — there’s always a but — I love to try new things … to see if a dish we all enjoy can turn into something we absolutely love.
Two years ago I was charged with making the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing for my husband’s extended family; I decided to experiment with a dressing recipe that would complement the rest of the dinner and yet wouldn’t take over the other flavors.
After a couple years of tweaking, I think it’s just about right. The stuffing is moist but not soggy, full of flavor with savory notes from the sausage and a hint of sweet from the cranberries. I like to cook my stuffing inside the bird for extra flavor and moisture, but you certainly don’t have to. If you bake it on its own, I would recommend adding extra chicken stock to keep the stuffing from drying out.
Sausage & Apple Herbed Stuffing
• 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 large Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
(about 2 ½ cups)
• 4 stalks celery, diced (about 2 cups)
• 1 large apple, diced (about 2 cups)
• 10-12 cups cubed stale French bread
(I buy the bags of pre-made croutons
from the bakery section)
• ¾ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon rosemary
• 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley
• 2 ½ – 3 cups chicken stock (less if bak-
ing inside the turkey, more if baking
in its own pan)
• 4 tablespoons butter, melted
• 3 eggs, whisked
• 2 cups dried cranberries or Craisins
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. Over medium-low heat, brown the Italian sausage, making sure to use a spatula to break up the meat into very small crumbles. Rub the fennel seeds between your hands before sprinkling over the sausage to release the aroma. Cook the sausage until brown and barely cooked through. Remove from heat and drain on a plate covered in a paper towel.
Using the same pan, sauté the apple, onion and celery in the leftover sausage drippings on medium heat. Add the rosemary and thyme and cook until onions are soft and beginning to change color.
In a large bowl, mix the bread cubes, sausage and vegetable mixture together. Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly. In a different bowl, combine chicken stock, melted butter and eggs. Pour over bread mixture. Salt and pepper the dressing and stir in cranberries and parsley. When the stuffing is well combined, pour into buttered baking dish and bake for 45 minutes uncovered. When the stuffing is golden brown and firm to the touch, it’s done.
*Originally printed in The Yakima Magazine, 2015