Stuffing (or dressing, depending on your method and who you talk to) is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. In my opinion, shoveling forkfuls of fat-soaked bread doused in gravy and cranberry sauce into my mouth is what Thanksgiving is all about.
In The Epicurious Cookbook, editor Tanya Steel offers a few variations on dressing/stuffing, but the most vibrant is New England Sausage, Apple, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing. Along with the titled inclusions, this stuffing is flavored with grassy leeks, celery (with its leaves) rosemary, parsley, and a sprinkling of poultry seasoning. It is at once familiar and bold; the tart apples and tangy cranberries balance out the salty-rich sausage and unctuous broth-soaked bread.
Why I picked this recipe: Sausage, cranberries, and apples lend familiar yet punchy fall flavors to this stuffing (and/or dressing).
What worked: I prepared this stuffing entirely as dressing, eschewing filling the bird and baking the whole thing in a casserole dish. (The recipe offers directions for both options.) This worked swimmingly; the dressing was moist, colorful, and something.
What didn't: Nothing—worked just as promised.
Suggested tweaks: You could certainly swap out white bread for your stuffing bread of choice. The comments included in the book suggest challah or potato bread. The cranberries could also be interchanged with raisins, currants, or other dried fruit. I also used a fresh array of herbs instead of bottled poultry seasoning. To match the flavors of the dried stuff, be sure to include rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and a bit of nutmeg.
Reprinted with permission from The Epicurious Cookbook by Tanya Steel and The Editors of Epicurious. Copyright 2012. Published by Clarkson Potter. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 14 ounces white bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 6 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 3 large leeks)
- 1 pound tart green apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 2 cups chopped celery with leaves
- 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces)
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or as needed
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the bread cubes between 2 large baking sheets. Bake until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
Sauté the sausages in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling coarsely with the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl.
Pour off any drippings from the skillet. Melt the butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, apples, celery, and poultry seasoning; sauté until leeks soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in the cranberries and rosemary. Add the mixture to the sausage, then mix in the bread and parsley. Season the stuffing to taste with salt and pepper.
When ready to stuff the bird, mix the eggs into the stuffing. Fill the main turkey cavity with the stuffing. Mix enough chicken broth into the remaining stuffing to moisten (about 3⁄4 to 1 cup chicken broth, depending on amount of remaining stuffing). Spoon into a buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered aluminum foil and bake alongside the turkey until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover stuffing and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Cook's Note: To bake stuffing in pan, butter a 15 by 10-inch baking dish. Mix 1 1/3 cups broth into stuffing and transfer to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake at 350°F until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.