Since I am pregnant, although still in the first trimester for two more weeks, I am not going to worry about how much I'm eating. Plus since I can't drink I won't be getting any calories from wine, beer or cocktails. I'm a little sad about that. Not the lack of calories, rather sitting around while sipping on something late into the night around the dinner table is part of family tradition. I am trying to look on the bright side by thinking "well now I can eat those calories instead." Writing that statement seems funny. I am not going to think about it too hard.
My families traditional stuffing recipe is a simple sage with onions and celery affair. It's absolutely delicious, but it is definitely a side dish and is only enhanced by gravy and cranberry sauce. This Sausage, Pecan and Dried Apricots stuffing can be a meal unto it self. Gravy would just cover up the subtle sweet apricots and earthy pecan flavor. This is the stuffing you want if you aren't doing a million recipes and you want a stand out.
This stuffing recipe comes from my favorite cookbook: Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipe and in the notes it mentions that, "The stuffing can be cooked inside the holiday bird if you prefer; just reduce stock to 1 cup. Stuff a 12 to 15-pound turkey with 6 cups of stuffing. Then add an additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the remaining stuffing and bake it separately in an 8-inch pan."
Lazy long way: First cut the bread into 1/2-inch slices, and lay them in a single layer on baking sheets or cooling racks, b and leaving them out overnight. The next day, cut the slices into 1/2-inch cubes and allow them to dry for another night.Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans and Dried Apricots
Fast but more effort way: If you are in a hurry, rush the process by drying the slices in a 225-degree oven until brittle but not brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Then cut them into cubes and proceed.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (you will also use the sausage grease, so you made need less depending)
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium ribs celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried sage or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine
2 cups pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups dried bread crumbs (from about 24-36 slices of bread)
1 cup homemade turkey or chicken stock
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour the grease off that remains and measure it. (Don't scrape the pan you want the fat to be clear. Then measure the grease and add enough butter to bring it up to six tablespoons. That sausage fat will add great flavor. Waste not, want not! That's the Thanksgiving way. I doubt the Pilgrims or the Indians ever threw meat fat away.
- Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until soft and translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the herbs and pepper, and cook for another minute. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage; add the parsley, pecans, apricots and salt, and mix to combine. Add the bread cubes to the bowl.
- Whisk the stock and the eggs together in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Gently toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stuff the bird or bake the dressing, covered with foil, at 400° F until hot throughout, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil; continue to bake until a golden brown crust forms on the stuffing, about 15 minutes longer.
What's in your favorite holiday stuffing?