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I've only made a fried turkey once, but almost as memorable as that juicy and crisp-skinned bird were the taters we sliced and cooked in the still-hot oil. The seasoning and fat from the bird infused those fries with a special flavor that I've never been able to reproduce. It did get me thinking though, if you can fry the centerpiece of the holiday meal, why not try out frying some of the trimmings? Well folks, it turns out that fried Thanksgiving stuffing fritters are pretty damn incredible.
Kenji actually floated the idea of stuffing fritters to me, and in an instant I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I've spent a bit of time developing a really good hush puppy recipe, so I figured if I threw some stuffing standards in, I'd have a fried approximation of my cornbread stuffing that adorns the table each Thanksgiving.
The first question was what to add to the batter to give it an unmistakeable Thanksgiving flavor. I started with the standard onion and celery, sweated in butter to give them the softened texture and sweet flavor they normally develop in a traditional roasted stuffing. At the very end of cooking, I stirred a healthy amount of sage and thyme to add that familiar herbal touch.
Mixed into my cornmeal batter and fried, these fritters were light and fluffy, but had a balance that was a more hushpuppy-sweet than the savory stuffing I was after. So I built upon that foundation and added in lightly cooked diced Granny Smith apples, which squarely pushed these fritters into stuffing territory.
But I didn't stop there. I also tried another favorite stuffing mix-in—sausage. My guest tasters were mixed with this one. Sure, the sausage tasted good, but it also introduced a harder texture that was out of harmony with the rest of the soft vegetables and apples. I sided with those who weren't as fond of the sausage and opted to leave it out of the final recipe. Feel free to add it in if you like, or experiment other stuffing-friendly ingredients like cranberries, nuts, or mushrooms.
With a batch of pretty awesome fritters resting nicely in my belly, I figured I was all set. Just for kicks though, and to use up the rest of my stuffing mix, I whipped up another batter. This time, I strayed away from the cornmeal-heavy hush puppy batter and made one that was composed mainly of flour, more like an apple fritter. These fried up just as light and airy as the first batch, but tasted like a whole different animal.
By backing down on the cornmeal, the savory value of this batch of fritters was turned way up. They didn't have the sweetness of the first batter, which gave the onions, celery, apples, and herbs center stage. Across the board, everyone thought these tasted much more like stuffing; something that would fit perfectly nestled between turkey and cranberry sauce on a plate. The only thing that would make them better is if I were able to fry them in post-turkey-frying oil, but worry not—a little bacon fat in the oil can work its own magic.
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