The most common side dish of any large holiday dinner or even family gathering would be stuffing. Or, you might call it dressing? You might cook this in the turkey. You might *not* cook it in the turkey. Whatever you call it and no matter how you make it, the one thing we can all agree on is stuffing/dressing is ALWAYS delicious! Northerners refer to it as stuffing - regardless if it is in the bird or out. Southerners refer to it as dressing when cooked outside of the bird. There is A LOT of really interesting information and history out there over this food-subject. I was asked how to go about making a simple stuffing, especially where people are on tight budgets. Wanna know something awesome? Stuffing can be VERY budget friendly and extremely easy to make! I tossed together some very simple key-points in this recipe and it also allows you to take charge when it comes to seasoning this stuffing to your own liking and what vegetables you would like to use.
INGREDIENTS: 1 16oz-20oz Loaf of Bread, or combination of different breads - diced and dried out 1-2 C Chicken Stock (or beef, vegetable, seafood, cut with wine, etc) 8-10oz Vegetables, finely diced - your choice 4-5 TB Butter, room temperature 3-4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped (to your liking) Olive Oil Poultry Seasoning - to taste
Dried or Fresh Dill, Thyme, Rosemary - to taste
Kosher Salt - to taste
Black Pepper - to taste
Prep everything ahead of time. Put your garlic and vegetables into one container. Bread should be old and stale, not moldy. Cut your bread down to even diced cuts. Collect all of your bread-cubes into a bowl. **If you have fresh bread and need to get it stale: about two to three days before Thanksgiving, lay out all of your cubed bread on a sheet pan and allow to air-dry. You may have to toss the bread around to make sure it starts to harden a bit.
Get your spices ready on the side. The key here is to trust your palate and taste-test as you go. You will be in full control to season this to your own liking. In a saute pan on medium-high heat, pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add your butter to the pan. Add about two pinches of kosher salt and black pepper to the pan. Swirl the pan around to make sure the butter is completely melted and the pan is hot.
Add your bread cubes and do NOT walk away. Toss the bread cubes around in the pan to get everything coated in that olive oil-butter mixture. Then, start adding a couple pinches of your spices to start. Toss around for up to about five minutes or you start to see the bread is starting to lightly brown. The spices should already have coated the bread cubes perfectly. Taste test a bread cube and determine if you need to adjust your spices more.
Add your container of prepped garlic and vegetables. Again, do NOT walk away. You will be tossing this all together to let the heat get to the vegetables. Toss for another three to five minutes and taste test. Because you added vegetables, you may need to adjust the spices. By now, you will see more browning on the bread and most of the moisture from the vegetables will have cooked out.
Add about 1/2 C to 1 C of your chicken stock to the pan and toss around. You now want to focus on getting the bread to absorb the stock. This will take just a couple of minutes at this point. Taste test another bread cube and make adjustments to your spices, if needed.
**This is where you have to make a decision: How wet do you like your stuffing? Some folks may just leave it up to one cup of stock used. Others might like a wetter stuffing. Then, you have to consider the fact that if you are using bread that is really dense and heavy, you may need more stock to get that type of bread to absorb. If you feel as though you need more, use 1/4 cup. It is easier to add a little more by keeping it minimal.
OPTIONS: You can easily make this your own by using cooked Italian sausage, maple sausage, fennel sausage, oysters, baked ham, bacon, etc.
Vegetarian: Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock
Vegan: Use a vegan-friendly butter-spread of choice. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock Use vegan-friendly bread.
Dairy-Free: Use a vegan-friendly butter of choice. Use a dairy-free bread.
Gluten-Free: Use a dense gluten-free bread but be mindful on how much stock you use.