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Dressing or stuffingCall it what you want, this side dish has earned a spot on the table

By Staff | Nov 10, 2017

-Submitted photo CLASSIC SOUTHERN cornbred dressing is popular in the south often served as a side dish rather than stuffing and it can be served with any meat.

By Carole Howell

GRIT Magazine

No denying it, Americans love the bread-based side dish integral to the Thanksgiving feast. Whether baked in a casserole dish or stuffed inside the bird, we want it just the way we remember it from our childhood.

Holidays conjure vivid memories of happy times, and food always plays a role. Each year as I plan my Thanksgiving menu, I ask everyone what favorite foods they would like to see on the table. My Southern-style cornbread dressing – the kind Granny and Aunt Mary taught me to make – always outranks the turkey. To vary the recipe, even slightly, would surely be risking a riot.

Historically speaking, as the United States expanded, settlers got their first taste of regional staples, and European immigrants all brought their favorite flavors to this uniquely American holiday. To find oysters in your stuffing would not have been so different at the historic first Thanksgiving feast. Oysters and other types of shellfish were common stuffing ingredients in Britain and across Europe, as a complement to fowl, fish, and game. Oyster dressing continues to enjoy favored status in New England and Eastern Coastal states, while cornbread rules the South.

ITALIAN?STYLE dressing bring Italian and American traditions together in one recipe.

The Pennsylvania Dutch use potatoes in their stuffing, which they call “filling,” while dressing in the Southwest takes on a spicier tone. For Italians, it’s Italian sausage, pancetta, and even pasta. It’s really about what you like.

Change is difficult, but this year I’m going to risk a family feud by breaking out of my Southern roots. This holiday season, I’m going to take the small step of baking my stuffing inside the turkey. (If you do the same, be sure the center of the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165 F for food safety reasons.) As an additional side, I may try a little oyster stuffing, just to see how it goes over.

As my New Year’s resolution, I vow to try a few new recipes. After all, dressing and stuffing are good year-round with many types of meats, so there’s no reason to reserve this side dish for the holidays. Who knows? Maybe I’ll discover a favorite recipe and create a new family tradition. I think Granny and Aunt Mary would be proud.

Classic southern

cornbread dressing

Yields 12 servings.

In the South, where buttered cornbread is as common as sweet tea, you’ll always find cornbread dressing. It’s often served as a side dish rather than a stuffing, and it can be served with any meat.

1 small pan or skillet of cornbread, crumbled

4 buttermilk biscuits, crumbled

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 eggs, beaten

1 medium onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) cream of chicken soup

6 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-by-13-inch casserole dish; set aside.

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, and mix well.

Spread into prepared dish, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until center is set and top is light brown. Cool slightly before serving.

To shorten baking time, use two 8-inch pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tops are golden.

Oyster and onion


Yields 12 to 14 servings.

Oyster stuffing is a favorite dish in New England and along the East Coast, where shellfish is readily available. The first English settlers were already accustomed to oyster stuffing, often baked under the skin of the bird, as well as inside the cavity.

12 cups cubed Italian or French bread

6 strips bacon, diced

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

2 medium onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 tablespoon crumbled dried thyme, or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons dried sage, or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

4 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 1 tablespoon minced prepared garlic

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

18 oysters, shucked, drained and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Spread bread cubes evenly on large cookie sheet. Bake on middle rack of oven until dry and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Transfer to large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cook bacon in heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels; reserve fat in pan. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan and let melt. Add onions, celery, thyme, sage, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper, and cook over low heat until vegetables are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add to bread cubes, with bacon, and toss to combine. Set aside.

Heat chicken stock and remaining butter in saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted, stirring often. Pour slowly over bread mixture, and mix well. Stir in oysters.

Stuff mixture into cavity of turkey, or spoon into buttered 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake, covered, on middle rack for 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking until golden brown, about 30 additional minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

To prepare ahead of time, combine all ingredients except oysters, and store, covered, in refrigerator up to two days before baking. Bring mixture to room temperature, add oysters, and bake according to directions.

Southwestern Thanksgiving dressing

Yields 12 to 14 servings.

Southwesterners enjoy a little heat in their holiday meals. Chiles, corn, cumin, and chorizo – staples of Southwestern cooking – deliver a kick to this traditional dish.

1 pound chorizo, casing removed, or 1 pound hot breakfast sausage

2 large onions, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 tablespoon prepared minced garlic

12 to 14 cups cubed white bread

1 can (4 ounces) green chiles, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 1/2 ounces) yellow corn, drained

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-by-13-inch casserole dish or two 8-inch pans; set aside.

In large skillet over medium heat, brown chorizo, onions, and celery in olive oil until onions begin to soften. Add garlic, and cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In large bowl, combine bread cubes, chiles, parsley, cumin, salt, corn, eggs, and chicken stock, and mix well. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until bread absorbs liquid, stirring occasionally. Mixture should be moist, but not soggy. Add additional chicken stock, a little at a time, if needed, until desired consistency is reached. Spread mixture in prepared pan(s).

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling

Yields 12 to 14 servings.

Simple is the best way to describe Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, using farm staples and few spices. This recipe will fill a 15-pound bird. Cut the recipe in half to fill a chicken, or double it for an extra-large turkey.

1/2 cup cooking oil

15 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 eggs, beaten

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1 cup chicken broth

10 cups cubed white bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add potatoes and onion, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and potatoes are golden. Remove from skillet, and drain on paper towels.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, and chicken broth. Add bread cubes, and mix until well combined. Mixture will have consistency of thick batter. Add potatoes and onion, and mix well.

Fill turkey cavity. Follow directions for roasting turkey, but allow an extra 30 minutes, at least, to compensate for the stuffing. Baste both turkey and filling every 45 minutes. Use meat thermometer inserted into turkey and center of stuffing to test doneness.

When done, remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove filling from cavity of turkey and place in serving dish.

To prepare filling without a turkey, spread prepared mixture in greased 9-by-13-inch dish. Sprinkle with a little seasoning salt and 1/4 cup melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until center is set, bubbly, and golden.

Italian-style dressing

Yields 12 servings.

Italian-American traditions come together beautifully in this recipe, incorporating pasta and Parmesan with the lusty flavors of fennel and red pepper found in traditional Italian sausage.

1-pound-loaf artisan bread, cut into cubes

1/2 pound ditalini pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 large onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces porcini mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread bread cubes evenly on cookie sheet, and toast in oven for 10 minutes, or until dry and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, cook and drain pasta. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes, breaking meat into bits. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook for about 6 minutes. Add sage, parsley, and butter.

In large bowl, combine toasted bread, pasta, and sausage mixture, and mix well. Add eggs, chicken stock, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Use more or less chicken broth, if necessary. Mixture should be very moist, but not soupy.

Spoon mixture into 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake, uncovered, for 10 more minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

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