Saturday, November 7, 2015

sourdough stuffing | post-Thanksgiving






Here in Canada we have celebrated the harvest and given thanks for many and manifest blessings. In our house that celebration demands (a word chosen with deliberation) a fairly strict menu. I sometimes peruse with longing the many offerings for variation on the Thanksgiving feast theme - some verging on exotic, others simply needlessly complicated - but I have stopped suggesting we add anything to the table for that meal. Stopped because the table is full as is with dishes that not one person in our crowd can stand to see replaced or changed. Call it tradition - and happy family. Nothing wrong with any of that. So although in one sense our menu is strict, there is nothing at all austere about it. It is simply very well defined.

One of the dishes that I have played with in the past is the stuffing. Recipes abound that are so enticing to me and I have tried more than a few of those ideas but in the last four or five years I have settled on a simple sourdough stuffing that is universally approved and devoured on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing about it is wild and crazy except the straight-up goodness. Any bread that is a day or two old is very good in this recipe but a nice mild sourdough loaf makes all the difference in the world we think. I cross my fingers every year that I can harvest the fresh herbs from my garden and most years I can - even on the years where we have had more than a few frosts the herbs bravely struggle on to the last. I realize that is not an option for everyone but it is sure fun for me.

We have decided that we all prefer stuffing that is not cooked in the turkey so that is the way I do it but this stuffing works beautifully either way. The huge advantage of not stuffing the bird is that it roasts a lot faster and stays more moist - seems like a win/win to me. Just pop the stuffing into the oven as you pull the turkey out to rest and the timing is perfect.

I offer no picture of the stuffing after baking for the simple reason that at that point there was no waiting for photos to be taken and after the meal there was not a crumb left. It looks pretty much like the first photo but nicely golden.

The celebration of Thanksgiving may be done for this year but truly giving thanks and finding the joy of gratitude daily is always before us. The list of things for which I am grateful is long but among those at the top of that list: faith, hope, family (each and every wonderful, weird, beautiful, strong person from littlest Margo to David), health, friendship, my garden, my home, and the joy of sharing all of that. Thanksgiving may be behind me but Christmas is ahead. I love this season of joy and sharing, of counting blessings and then desiring to share them. Whenever or however you celebrate your gratitude may it be with good food and loved ones - and maybe some sourdough stuffing.

(As I proof-read this I have to wonder why we don't just have stuffing more often? Like right now.)

sourdough stuffing

10 cups sourdough bread, torn into smallish pieces (about 1 1/2 standard size boules)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups turkey broth*
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook until it is beginning to become tender. Remove from heat.

Put the torn bread 'cubes' into a large bowl. Add the parsley, sage, thyme, cranberries, and pecans. Add the butter, celery, onion mix and toss. Pour the turkey broth over, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Bake (covered) in a buttered 9x13 pan or ceramic ceramic casserole dish for 20 -30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* I make a broth with the turkey neck, a carrot, 1/4 of an onion and about 3 cups water that I simmer for an hour or so early in the day of the turkey feast. Strain the solids out and it is good to go. If you prefer to use a canned chicken broth, adjust the amount of salt to about 1 tsp.

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