Dressing for the Occasion: Thanksgiving Stuffing


Thanksgiving.

I always look forward to November.  It’s when the temperature of Southern California finally starts to dip below 70°, and we start thinking about gathering with all the people we care about the most.

I’ve also noticed that it’s the time of year where you’ll see more people shopping for the ingredients to a truly homecooked meal.

I will admit, I also love this time of the year because I feel a very special bond to all that is Thanksgiving. After all, I was born at suppertime on Thanksgiving Day. (I made Mom miss the greatest meal of the year! Sorry, Mom!) Therefore, I’d be incredibly shameful if I didn’t live up to loving a big feast… right? 😉


Mom?

After all these years,  I’m finally at that magical age. You know the one: it’s where you finally look like you’ve been around long enough that you may have some wisdom you’d like to share. And, you’re young enough that you won’t be cranky because you’ve missed the early bird special at the local diner.
I’ve been approached more than a few times recently by college-aged kids, who aren’t sure how you’re supposed to cook an artichoke, and wondering what color of apple I thought their grandma used in apple pie.
I’ve even had a couple girls say “bye, Mom” when we’ve finished chatting. I love it. 🙂

It’s Time to Change, You’ve Got to Rearrange…

For at least the last 10 years, I’ve stuck with nearly the same menu for Thanksgiving. And, it has been good. But I’ve noticed it’s time to make changes. This year, my sister has asked that I not make her favorite carrot dish, and instead do a veggie roast. Sounds like fun! My nephew has asked me to make up a new pie, just for him (that’s a secret now… blog to follow!), and my very dear friend Donna will be joining the family, which means some of the dishes need to be gluten and dairy free. I love a challenge!

Think Outside the Box.

No! Not the Red Box!

When I was growing up, my Mom and Grandma were in charge of the Thanksgiving Day meal. And, it was always completely homemade from scratch, except for one element: I grew up eating that stuffing… you know the one.
It comes out of a red box.
With yellow writing.
From the same wiseguys who make the macaroni in the blue box with the powdered orange “cheese”.

Determined to think outside the box, literally, I tried Martha Stewart’s recipe last year. Nope. Not my style. I wasn’t impressed, and my family ate it politely, but… ick. Funny thing is, my friend Tracie told me she had the same reaction to Martha’s recipe! In all fairness, I generally adore Martha’s recipes, and this was the first no-go I’ve tried.


A New Idea.

In hopes of redeeming my dressing this year, I’ve tested out a new recipe. And, it is exactly what I was searching for. It’s got just the right amount of everything, and since I barely changed it at all, I’m giving full credit to it’s original author, Diane Morgan.
The recipe is from her book, The New Thanksgiving Table: An American Celebration of Family, Friends, and Food

(but just so you know what I changed up, my notes are in blue)

 New England Bread Stuffing with Bell’s Seasoning

This is my new favorite dressing!

(Before we start Diane’s recipe, here are a couple of my suggestions:
1. To make the bread cubes toasty, after cutting them, I put them into a 400° oven, in an 11″ x 15″ pan with sides. Why sides? Because then you can stir them up every few minutes for even toasting without worrying they’ll drop onto the floor of your oven. After about 10-15 minutes, they’ll be done. Also, if you decide to do more than the recipe calls for, you’ll have a lot of fresh croutons)

2. Before you start, cut everything up and put it into appropriate-sized bowls.
This will make the recipe so much easier!

5 T. Butter, room temp
9 c. unseasoned bread cubes ½” x ½” (I used 15oz. artisanal Ciabatta)
1 lg. yellow onion, chopped (I used 12 larger-bulbed green onions, bottom ⅔ of the stalks, chopped)
2 lg. carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large ribs celery, chopped
¾ c. fresh cranberries (I used 1 cup)
½ c. fresh flat-leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley)
1 T. Bell’s Seasoning*
1 tsp. Kosher or sea salt (I used Pink Himalayan)
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 c. chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Coat a deep, 9″x13″ baking pan with 1 T. of butter.

Place the bread cubes in a very large bowl. In a 10″ sauté pan, melt the remaining 4 T. butter over medium-high heat and swirl to coat the pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and lightly browned. Add the onion mixture, along with the cranberries to the bowl with the bread cubes and stir to combine. Using a rubber spatula, mix in the parsley, Bell’s Seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add the eggs and stock to the bowl, and mix well. (I premixed these last two, which worked out really well).

Mix it up!

Scrape the stuffing into the prepared pan and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 (I used 55) minutes until the top is lightly browned and crusty.

The ultimate kitchen fragrance!

I’ve come to realize, after reading the cookbook, and tasting this perfect blend, that Bell’s Seasoning is imperative.

This is the most important ingredient!

I ordered it online, and not only was it inexpensive, it was delivered in less than a week. It’s a New England staple, and in Diane Morgan’s words, “It’s an aromatic and herbaceous blend of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper”. Wow, is it ever! Trust me. You want this.

Remember, just because I gave you a recipe, doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own by adding or subtracting ingredients to suit your taste.
My aunt commented that she sometimes puts water chestnuts or craisins in hers, while others like to add sausage or mushrooms.

So, what do think? First, tell me your special add-ins.
Then tell me if you may make this some time.

(and if you caught the subtle reference to a 70’s show, tell me that too.)

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18 thoughts on “Dressing for the Occasion: Thanksgiving Stuffing

  1. Sounds delicious!! I was going to say I often add waterchesnuts too. I can’t wait to order the seasoning! Sounds like the perfect blend of spices!!

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    1. It is perfect! I think the waterchestnut crunch is something so many people love – or celery, if you cut it larger so you still get a bit of a crunch. I always loved when the cranberry relish would sit with the stuffing because then the flavors would blend so well. With this recipe, they do it on their own – how cool is that?

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  2. Looks yummy, Joani! I don’t usually make the full on Thanksgiving meal (sister – in – law does that) but I have noted this recipe for reference for future meals. Who says you have to wait for Thanksgiving to have stuffing! Also….. I caught the Brady Bunch song reference immediately….. do you think I watched too much after school television being the latch-key kid that I was? 😀

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    1. This really is a delicious stuffing. I love making the Thanksgiving meal, and this year I was happy to tell my Mom she didn’t have to make any food. I think it’s her first year of no cooking/baking in 46 years 🙂
      And, secondly….Yay! You’re the first one to get the BB reference! 😉

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  3. Much more celery, please. A handful of pecan halves make a nice decoration on top.

    By way of defending our old family traditions…. No, we didn’t always have the “red box” variety. I don’t even know when it came out on the market, but we’d had many a turkey dinner before that time, with dressing made from scratch. But once your Grandma Casey discovered it, and decided she liked to doctor it up with her own favorite additives, it became a new tradition.

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  4. Being a New Englander from birth, I can’t imagine stuffing without bells seasoning. Their plant for years was located just down the street from where I live. You could smell the herbs in the air during the day when they were working the mill. It had a mill water wheel outside the building and was located on the local creek.

    My mother would use the basic recipe for the body and add sausage for the neck part. And sometimes she would make a potato dressing to be bake separate. I ate more than my share.

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    1. Oh the scent in the air must have been spectacular! I adore that smell!
      I bet your mom’s turkey was so tasty – adding different tastes in different parts of the bird – what a great idea! And a potato dressing…yum!

      That’s it. I’m hungry for Thanksgiving again… time to pull out one of the turkeys from my freezer!

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  5. Reblogged this on sockmonkeyskitchen and commented:

    Hello readers!
    I’ve been a bit under the weather this week, with a ‘lovely’ trip to the hospital yesterday, but am now on the road to recovery. I’ll be back next week with something new for you… but until then, please enjoy this delicious Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe that is sure to keep your family coming back for more =0)

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  6. Perfect ! I needed a good stuffing recipe! When I cook the meal I usually do some cool veggies and casseroles or squash so I get lazy when it comes to stuffing. This year my boyfriend’s parents are coming to our house for dinner for the first time since he moved in last year (they live a few hrs away)… so I’m all OMG I HAVE TO COOK FOR THE ‘INLAWS’! And his mom makes the yummiest stuffing (with saltines in it) so I knew I needed to find a good recipe!

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  7. Well, crafty, I have a feeling that you must be a very talented cook! The first time I tried this recipe, I knew it was the one to use. I have purchased so much of the Bell’s seasoning over the past year… it’s really the perfect addition to the stuffing… and it’s also outstanding in chicken soup, or chicken & dumplings. It just makes things taste more ‘homey’. I think that putting fresh cranberries are also such a treat… I think I may even use more this year, since I love cranberries so much! I found myself fishing out the little red berries to put on my plate 😉

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  8. Ok……you’ve got me hooked……for starters……Needing to make some notes on what recipes to research on your blog depending on the season….& then head to the market!! Now….I can’t wait until next Thanksgiving……

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