Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour
Stuff that big bird with good stuff
Do you know why the word "dressing" is often substituted for "stuffing" as in "stuffing the bird?" Because the Victorians thought the word "stuffing" was just a bit too suggestive! What a difference a hundred years has made in our use of language, but thankfully not in the tradition of filling a big turkey plum full of good stuffing for Thanksgiving.
Stuffings are usually a combination of moistened bread, aromatic vegetables and herbs (mainly sage). But, not always. Here are a few easy ways to make stuffings without recipes plus new recipes to change any way you want to, as inspiration and the food likes and dislikes of your family dictate.
CREATIVE CHANGES YOU CAN MAKE TO YOUR STUFFING RECIPE
* Roughly speaking, plan three-fourths to one cup of stuffing for each pound of bird. Stuff it lightly into the top and bottom body cavities, do not pack.
* Rice can take the place of bread and so can corn bread. Those small packages of corn bread mix are quick, easy and inexpensive to make.
* Tart fruits in the stuffing, such as cranberries or apples, are a nice contrast to the richness of the meal.
* Nuts are always a welcome addition to stuffings - walnuts and pecans especially. Pine nuts and some Italian seasoning would have the bird speaking with an Italian accent.
* In many parts of the world they like to add raisins and/or dried fruits such as apricot, cranberries, cherries, plums, pineapple, to stuffings. The dried tropical fruits that we can buy now for fruitcakes are interesting, too.
* Cooked sausage or bacon, with their drippings, really add flavor (and calories) to any kind of stuffing.
* Vegetables such as chopped mushrooms, spinach, peppers (sweet or hot), fennel, celery, leeks, are all interesting additions. Onion is almost basic.
* When making any stuffing, go heavy on the seasoning (salt, pepper, sage, poultry seasoning, etc.) and light on the liquid (though you will need some). As the big bird cooks it provides some moisture for the stuffing, which is why stuffing cooked in the bird is more flavorful than that cooked in a casserole. Be sure to baste any stuffing baking in a casserole with turkey drippings.
* Do not pack the stuffing into the bird, instead spoon lightly. As the starch absorbs the liquid from the bird it will expand.
* Do not ever stuff any bird ahead of time. The warm, moist stuffing and the inside of the bird are perfect partners in growing the nasty little organisms that cause food poisoning.
* Before storing the leftovers, remove the stuffing left in the body cavities, cover and refrigerate. Same reason.
WILD RICE STUFFING
A mixture of breadcrumbs and wild rice with mushrooms and turkey makes any bird proud.
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
Saute bacon until almost crisp. Add onion, celery and mushrooms; continue cooking until vegetables are tender. In a bowl combine bacon mixture, wile rice, bread, sausage, oregano and sage. Season to taste. Spoon dressing lightly into bird or a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake casserole, covered at 325°F for 35 to 40 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings, about 5 cups.
JALAPENO CORN BREAD STUFFING
A favorite in the Southwest and Southeast and of anybody who tries it.
4 cups corn bread, crumbled
Combine corn bread and bread cubes. Saute sausage, celery and onion until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables are tender; combine with cornbread mixture. Mix in remaining ingredients in order given. Spoon dressing lightly into bird or greased 3-quart casserole. Bake, covered, at 325°F for 45 to 50 minutes. Makes 12 servings.
TRADITIONAL APPLE-CHESTNUT STUFFING
Start with a stuffing mix and make it your own.
1 pound packed herbed stuffing mix
Place mix in large bowl. Crumble sausage into frying pan and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring until onions are soft. Stir into the stuffing mix. Add chestnuts and apples. Melt butter with thyme and stir into the stuffing. Pour chicken broth over the stuffing, stirring lightly to distribute evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Fill cavities loosely with stuffing and spoon the remainder into a greased casserole. Cover and bake 45 minutes at 350°F. Makes 8 servings.