Over the next couple of weeks, In a Southern Kitchen will be all about Thanksgiving. I’ll share my favorite recipes, some of which are old family recipes, some that came from magazines, some from friends and some of mysterious origins. I’d love to hear about your favorite Thanksgiving recipes also, so please share in the comments.
Years ago, my first mother-in-law and I loved nothing better than to stay up until 2 a.m., thumbing through magazines, finding new recipes and just sharing life. Having raised four boys of her own, Mom was a great resource to me whenever I had baby questions. Although I don’t see her much these days, I always think of her when I cook this apple and sausage stuffing. We found it during one of those late night recipe forays, from what magazine I have no idea, and we were so excited to prepare a new dish for the family Thanksgiving celebration. However, the stuffing experiment didn’t go so well. We used regular untoasted white bread (as the recipe called for) and ended up with a greyish, soggy mess. Needless to say, everyone went for the traditional cornbread dressing and the stuffing was largely untouched. She and I ate it and proclaimed it delicious, although I’m not sure either of us truly enjoyed it at the time.
Of course, stuffing is not a traditional Southern Thanksgiving dish. We always have cornbread dressing with giblet gravy, but every now and then I like to throw this one out there as well. I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years as I’ve learned more about cooking. Now I use sourdough bread which I toast to help keep it from getting soggy in the broth. I also toast the pecans, which gives them a richer, nuttier flavor.
This is one of those recipes in which it’s important to practice mise en place, a French term meaning to have all ingredients ready prior to commencing cooking. However, there are some things you can do for economy of time. While the bread is toasting, chop the mushrooms if you didn’t buy pre-sliced. While the mushrooms are roasting, chop the pecans. While the pecans are roasting, don’t do anything—otherwise you might forget about the pecans and have to start over. Don’t ask me how I know.
Grab a large baking dish, 15x10x2 if you have it and if not then use 2 smaller ones, and butter it well. Spread mushrooms out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a little kosher salt. You can also saute the mushrooms if you prefer: just melt a couple of tablespoons butter in a large skillet and saute until brown and tender.
Next, spread the bread on one or two cookie sheets and toast for about 15 minutes, until slightly browned and dry. Then spread the chopped pecans on a cookie sheet (you can reuse the same cookie sheets for everything) and toast for 5-8 minutes until they smell like the roasted nuts you get at the fair.
While the mushrooms and bread are toasting, chop the onions, celery, apples and herbs. Crush one teaspoon of fennel seeds. I put the seeds in a baggie and beat it with a meat mallet until the seeds are crushed. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet and cook the fennel seeds for about thirty seconds, then add the sausage and cook until done and well-browned. Scoop out the sausage and melt two more tablespoons of butter to saute the onions and celery.
Once the vegetables are slightly wilted, add the thyme, sage and rosemary and then pour in half a cup of dry white wine to deglaze the pan.
You need a very large mixing bowl to put all this together. Get creative—I use the top of my plastic cake cover because it’s huge and the perfect size for mixing a large batch of mashed potatoes, dressing or stuffing. To the bowl, add the bread, pecans, mushrooms, sausage and onion mixture. Toss in the apples and stir gently.
At this point, you can set the bowl aside if you need to cook it later in the day. If it’s going to be several hours then just place it in the refrigerator but be sure to take it out at least an hour before you’re ready to bake.
Pour in one cup of apple cider and one cup of chicken stock. Stir gently and then add more stock as needed. I used about 2 cups of stock. You want all the bread to be coated with liquid, but you don’t want the stuffing to be mushy. This is not like dressing where it should be a little soupy. Once all the stock is mixed in, spread the stuffing in a large, prepared baking dish.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until top is nicely browned.
Your kitchen is going to smell like the best of Thanksgiving…the earthy herbs mixed with fruity apples and sausage…it’s heavenly!
- 8 cups sourdough bread cubed
- 2 cups white onion chopped
- 1 1/2 cups celery chopped (about 3 stalks)
- 2 1/2 cups baby bella mushrooms sliced (2 cartons)
- 2 large tart apples chopped
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- 1 lb. sweet italian sausage
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup apple cider
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven 375. Toast bread on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. When bread is done, turn oven to 450.
Toss mushrooms with olive oil and a little kosher salt, then spread out on a baking sheet. Roast mushrooms for about 20 minutes, until browned and tender.
- Toast pecans in oven for about 7 minutes.
- Return oven to 375.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium heat and add the crushed fennel seed. Stir for about thirty seconds, then add sausage and cook until browned. Remove sausage with slotted spoon and melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet.
Add onions and celery and saute until slightly tender. Add sage, thyme and rosemary. Pour in 1/2 cup white wine and stir, scraping up the sausage bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook for a few minutes until wine is decreased.
- In large mixing bowl, combine bread, sausage, pecans, parsley, and onion mixture and stir gently. (At this point, you can set the stuffing aside until almost ready to bake).
Pour in 1/2 cup apple cider and add stock, one cup at a time, stirring until mixture is fairly wet. You don't want it soggy-wet but you don't want it dry either.
Butter a large baking dish (15x10x2). Spread stuffing in prepared baking dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Bake for additional 20 minutes or until nicely browned and bread looks slightly toasted.