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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Dressing

Some families have the same meal every Thanksgiving, using the same tried-and-true recipes year after year; while other's menu is constantly evolving to include new twists on classic dishes. For many years, my family's Thanksgiving was the former: the menu never changed. As Bob and I started hosting Thanksgiving at our house 3 years ago, we have tweaked the menu slightly- not eliminating dishes but rather adding a few of our own (like these Mashed Potatoes with Root Vegetables, Compound Herb Butter, and Honey Butter-YUM!) Each year we learn more about which dishes need tweaking and how to better execute the meal. One thing that we will never mess with is our traditional Thanksgiving Dressing. Dressing is basically "stuffing" that is cooked in a separate dish, not in the turkey. For that reason, it can get a crispy top and edges depending on how you bake it, which I think is one of the best parts! My family has never made stuffing in a turkey (and now it's actually not recommended because you either undercook your stuffing or overcook your bird). Our dressing recipe is very basic - no organ meat, sausage, or other fancy add-ins. It's actually the simplicity that I love, and it's one of my favorite dishes at Thanksgiving. My mom and my aunt got this recipe from their mother and have each adapted their own way to make it. I've taken each of their recipes and combined them into one master recipe. This dressing was designed to go well with chicken or turkey, so it's the perfect side dish any time of year!  

Thanksgiving Dressing

1 stick butter                                               
¾ cup onion, diced small                                   
1 cup celery (boiled and diced small)   
1 loaf white sandwich bread (frozen and cubed into ½-inch cubes- crust and all)                                
1 tsp. salt                                                    
½ tsp. pepper
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
¾ cup celery water, hot
¾ cup chicken stock, hot

1. Boil pieces of celery until soft. Remove strings.
2. Chop celery and onion into small dice.
3. Melt butter in pan, sauté onions and celery until onions are soft. 
4. Combine the celery water and chicken broth in a measuring cup, making sure it is hot (heat it up if it’s not).
5. Add bread cubes to a large bowl/pan, add the salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  Add the cooked onion/celery mixture and the hot celery water/chicken stock.  Stir until the bread is moist.  It is better to have the bread too moist than not enough because it will be baked.
6. Spoon the bread mixture into a pan. Do not flatten it out – leave little hills and valleys for the turkey juice or gravy to settle into.
7. Bake covered at 350F for around 40 minutes, then uncover for the last 20 minutes to brown (cook time total of 1 hour).  You may also add gravy to the top intermittently during the baking process, but not the last 20 minutes because you're looking to get that crispy top.

Notes:  Aunt Suey always doubles this recipe for Thanksgiving.  The dressing needs at least 1 hour in the oven depending on how deep the pan is.  Cook at 400F for a double batch. 

Source: Adapted from my Aunt Suey and my Mom

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