All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend
There are countless versions of stuffing: classic, cornbread, oyster, some with fruits, some with nuts, some with fruits and nuts, sausage, mushroom, rice, crab, roasted veggie, and the list goes on. You can personalize it with the addition of different breads (focaccia, sourdough, whole wheat), different herbs, the addition of roasted squash or spinach, seafood, types of sausage, etc etc and on and on.
I grew up making a classic version. I remember sitting around my grandmother’s table the night before Thanksgiving, with a mound of bread scraps that had been saved over the last few months in the freezer, and hand-tearing them into bite-size pieces. We spread them out on cookie sheets and let them dry out overnight. In the morning we sautéed a giant pan full of butter, onions, celery, and a heap of poultry seasoning. The bread was added along with enough stock to enable you to squeeze it into a ball. We called it dressing of course, because I’m from Texas. And then we stuffed it into the turkey (both ends). I always tried to sneak the crispy crunchy edges that overflowed from the turkey.
That classic version is still my go-to favorite. But now I call it stuffing even though ironically I no longer stuff it inside the bird; I prefer baking it alongside resulting in far more acreage of crispy crunchy browned bits. I’ve also elevated it slightly, adding creamy chestnuts, fresh sage, a leek and some sherry. But the poultry seasoning stays, as there’s no flavor quite like it.
Use whatever bread you have on hand. I like a mixture of good-quality French or Italian loaves, sourdough or not, maybe some levain or whole wheat thrown in for some texture.
Recipe: Sage and Chestnut Stuffing
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 leek, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, plus more as needed
- 1 cup chopped cooked, peeled chestnuts
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 1/2 loaves (about 1.25 lbs) good-quality artisan bread, such as French batard, levain, or sourdough, cut into cubes and toasted in the oven
- Kosher salt, as needed
- About 1 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 375F. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large sauté pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and leek and sauté until tender and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the sage leaves and poultry seasoning and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape into a large bowl.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, add the chestnuts, and sauté for a few seconds. Add a splash of sherry. Scrape into the bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add a sprinkle of salt or more poultry seasoning as needed. Douse with enough chicken stock to moisten the stuffing until it can be squeezed together into a ball.
Scrape into the baking dish and spread into a thick, even layer. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until browned and crisp on the top and edges, about 30 minutes longer.