Thanksgiving stuffing (my most asked-for recipe) and a round-up of Thanksgiving breads


(photo by Mark Luinenburg)

Like many people, my wife, Laura, and I live far from family, so this time of year, we’re always reminded that you have to find family wherever you land. Well, we have landed; this is our thirty-sixth year in Minnesota. Over the years we’ve been lucky to be invited for Thanksgiving dinner by friends with a large and warm family, some of whom travel in from all over the state (and nation!) for the annual get-together. And it’s a potluck, so no surprise, I always got the request for bread and a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. That stuffing, although it doesn’t appear in any of my books, became my most requested recipe from friends. Back in 2009, I published it here on my website, and I thought I’d reprise it, because I recently made it for my mom, who is a lifelong dyed-in-the-wool roasted-in-the-bird stuffing believer. Well, she loved the oven-baked stuffing. One key to creating rich flavor without a bird is to use your poultry broth without skimming the fat. The second revelation was (and this is sacrilege for me): you don’t have to use homemade bread. At my mom’s place, I used a mix of ordinary white and whole wheat sandwich bread from the supermarket. Not artisan bread at all. The forward flavors are poultry broth, herbs, and egg (stuffing is really a kind of eggy bread pudding), so it turns out that the bread really plays second fiddle here.

That said, I usually do make stuffing from homemade loaves like in the picture above, with the crusts left on for flavor and texture. The Peasant Bread from my first book is a great choice. The white-flour Master Recipe works, but I usually swap in 1 cup of whole-grain rye and decrease the white flour by 1 cup. If you want something lighter, decrease the rye-swap to 1/2 cup (whole wheat flour works the same way). Or use challah (you don’t have to make it in a crockpot like on that link). My go-to poultry broth recipe is from The Joy of Cooking, but any traditional broth recipe will work.

OK, let’s make some stuffing…

The great thing about making bread for stuffing:  you don’t have to care how it looks, or how the crust sets. I happened to do my boules with steam in the oven, but you don’t have to and I can’t much tell the difference in the stuffing when I don’t. Also, many recipes tell you to dry the bread by slicing and putting it into the oven for a while. That’s laborious so I don’t do it.  Just be sure to bake your breads fully, and the moisture that remains is about right for the hydration I call for in this recipe.  Likewise, the bread can be stale by a day or two, which is super-convenient for Thanksgiving prep, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Why do oven-baked stuffing? Stuffing the bird before roasting can give you overdone breast meat, because cooking time needs to be longer to get the internal temperature to a safe level (see USDA for details on food safety). If you want to retain the richness of stuffed-bird stuffing, make your own broth and don’t skim the fat. But this recipe works with store-bought broth too. And if you really want to roast the stuffing inside the bird, that works too.

Here’s the recipe, kinda based on what my grandmother used to do (I say “what she used to do” because she didn’t write down recipes. I just watched.)

1/2 cup olive oil (plus additional for greasing pan and brushing top of baked stuffing)

2 celery stalks, diced

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1-pound loaf of bread, white, rye, or whole-grain, cut into half-inch cubes, with crusts left on

1 3/4 cups chicken or turkey stock, canned (low-sodium) or homemade and unskimmed, without added salt. It should also work with vegetarian broth, but I’ve never tried it. Keep in mind that the flavor will be different, of course.

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until browned.  Add the remaining vegetables, salt, pepper, and herbs, continuing to saute until the mushrooms give up their liquid.  Allow to cool slightly so the hot vegetables don’t cook the eggs when they’re mixed.

Drop all the bread cubes into a large bowl and mix with the broth, eggs, stock, and the entire contents of your skillet.

Generously grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish (or equivalent) with oil or butter, and spoon the stuffing mixture into it. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and brush with olive oil, then bake uncovered until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. The top should develop a crust, and there shouldn’t be any liquid pooling when you probe the stuffing near the center of the pan. Increase cooking time if needed, and re-cover with foil if it’s browning too fast. It’s great re-heated in the oven or microwave if you want to make this in advance.

More Thanksgiving recipes from my library: Click here

As always, I am grateful for your readership and support. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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11 thoughts to “Thanksgiving stuffing (my most asked-for recipe) and a round-up of Thanksgiving breads”

  1. Since meeting my wife, Thanksgiving now features oyster dressing. Whole fresh oysters would be substituted in the place of the mushrooms, the onions, celery and oysters are simmered with butter and the oyster liqueur (taking the place of the olive oil). She then cuts up the oysters with some kitchen shears (cuz that’s what her Mom did, of course) and into the bread mixture it goes after cooling slightly. Had never had this until I met her, but now it’s not Thanksgiving without it!

  2. Jeff, I, too, make my Grandma’s (and Mom’s) dressing/stuffing recipe every Thanksgiving. I grew up in northern MN and we call it dressing not stuffing.
    There’s 2 differences in our recipes; 1) you use olive oil; I use butter 2) no mushrooms in my recipe.
    I can’t image Thanksgiving without this dressing and I’m 66 years young.

  3. Have you ever tried adding Minnesota wild rice (cooked) to your dressing? I have been doing it for 30+ years and get rave reviews from my guests and family at Thanksgiving. Also, butter makes everything better!

    1. I haven’t tried wild rice in the dressing, but I have tried it in the bread, it’s in one of the books. I find people like the olive oil based version just as much, but of course you can substitute melted butter for the oil

      1. Jeff, I have two of your cookbooks and bake bread weekly- love the technique! So much in fact, I’ve hosted baking nights at my home to teach groups of friends how to make sourdough bread and also to use the “artisan bread in five “ technique. Many new converts:)

        I have a questions regarding converting an enriched “old school” recipe to your technique. I make paska for Easter and would like to try a refrigerated dough technique. How should I change the hydration proportions, as it is a fairly rich dough with whole milk, eggs, and butter?

      2. Fantastic! Which two of the books do you have, because I can probably direct you to a recipe in one of them to use as a model.

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