My deadline for the Thanksgiving food cover is next week, so I am in the kitchen today, making Thanksgiving dishes to illustrate my stories.
Sitting at my computer, in a house that smells like turkey, pumpkin, sage and thyme is lovely, especially after a long election night in the newsroom.
I’m attempting a new stuffing recipe today. I found it in the Nov. 2011 edition of ”Food Network Magazine” — Mix & Match Stuffing. There are six steps, which each step offering several variations. For example, Step 1 is bread. You need 16 cups of bread crumbs. What kind of bread will you choose? Wheat? White? Rye?
I love this concept. You can make things as easy or as involved as you want. You can prepare stuffing using this recipe as a guideline for years and never have the same dish twice. It’s all about choices.
What’s your favorite stuffing combo?
MIX & MATCH STUFFING
Step 1: Choose a bread (white; sourdough; potato; multi-grain; challah; brioche; rye; pumpernickel)
Chop your choice of bread into 1/2-inch cubes to make 16 cups. Stale bread works best for stuffing — if your is fresh, spread out the cubes on a baking sheet and dry in a 300 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 2: Make the base
Heat 1 stick butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups chopped onions, leeks or scallions, 2 cups diced celery, 1 tablespoon each minced fresh sage and thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth; bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.
Step 3: Prep your mix-ins
Prepare 1 or 2 mix-ins. Suggestions include mushrooms (slice 1 1/4 pounds and saute in butter); fennel (chop 1 large bulb, toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F, 25 minutes; kale (stem and chop 1 bunch; blanch 2 minutes); butternut squash (peel, seed and cube 1 large squash; toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F, 35 minutes); wild rice (cook 1/2 cup as the label directs); or apples and/or pears (cut into small chunks and saute in butter).
Beat 2 eggs with 1/4 cup chopped parsley in a large bowl; stir in the bread cubes, the vegetable-broth mixture and the prepared mix-ins.
Step 4: Add meat (Optional)
Stir in 1/2 pound, if desired, of diced ham; diced salami; chopped and cooked bacon; chopped and cooked pancetta; or cooked and crumbled sausage.
Step 5: Add more mix-ins (Optional)
Stir in up to 1 cup total of these ingredients, if desired: shredded parmesan, gruyere, gouda or cheddar; chopped dried fruit, such as cranberries, raisins, apricots, dates or figs (chopped, if large); or roughly chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts,
Step 6: Bake the stuffing
Transfer the mixture to a buttered 3-to-4-quart baking dish and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, about 20 more minutes.