Why It Works
- Popeye’s biscuits, once dried, have the perfect structure for stuffing.
- Stock, cream, and eggs provide a custard-like texture.
Here at Serious Eats, we've made no secret of our fascination with fast food. So when we found out about Popeye's annual turkey special—a Cajun-roasted beast of a bird—we knew we had to have it. But what's a fast food turkey without a slew of fast food Thanksgiving sides?
Our mission: Start with fast food staples. Add some real ingredients and technique. Deliver rigorously tested recipes, dosed with just the right amount of saturated fats and happy meal toys to create an epic Thanksgiving fast food meal that isn't just clever, but actually looks and tastes GREAT.
Each of our sides calls for a central ingredient from a fast food icon, gussied up with easy-to-find, easy-to-prep supermarket ingredients. And you know what? There's not a single one I wouldn't happily serve to my family and friends come Thanksgiving. After procuring the Cajun turkey and making this biscuit-based stuffing, add on the McDonald’s hash brown gratin, Chipotle corn salsa creamed corn, and feature Domino’s Cinnastix in an apple crisp dessert.
Before you get too excited, no, Popeye's does not make a golden-brown, fresh out of the fryer, deep-fried turkey to-go. What they do sell is a par-cooked and frozen Cajun-style roast turkey. Which may sound sorta gross, and doesn't exactly look stunning, but frankly tastes kind of great.
After a nice, long defrost, we followed the package instructions, which call for reheating the turkey in a roasting pan over a puddle of water, all tented with tinfoil. After the recommended hour and a half inside its silver invisibility cloak, it was definitely nice and hot—unfortunately, there was no trademark burnished skin to be had. We unwrapped the bird and continued roasting for another 30 minutes and then, in a final act of desperation, blasted it at 500°F for another 10. The skin was definitely crisper, but we think removing the foil from the start would've been a more successful, aesthetically pleasing approach.
Regardless, we were really pleasantly surprised. The splotches of darkened spices didn't make it the most stunning specimen we've ever seen, but they tasted warm and spicy. Most importantly, the meat itself was actually moist and juicy, with a dark poultry flavor, even in the breast. For the secretly lazy cook, this is a godsend.
It's not Thanksgiving without stuffing. At least, that's what most people say. But honestly, stuffing isn't my favorite dish on the holiday table. To make a stuffing worthy of my praise, it must be filled out with savory browned meats, studded with tender vegetables, and made from bread with enough texture to recall its original form—no mushiness here, if you please.
Since Popeye's flaky, tender biscuits are one of our all-time favorites, I knew they had excellent potential. And sure enough, once dehydrated in the oven, the biscuit-croutons stand up beautifully to the stock, cream, and egg mixture that gives this stuffing its decidedly custardy texture.
We also opted to beef up (actually, pork up) the recipe with sweet Italian sausage, cooking our vegetables—onion, celery, carrots, and fennel—in the meaty rendered fat. These additions can be left out or adjusted according to preference, but the seasonings of garlic, thyme, and particularly sage are essential for that classic stuffing flavor. Other than the effort of buying, cutting, and toasting the biscuits, this recipe comes together just like most stuffing assemblies—easy, moist, fluffy, savory, and delicious.
12 Popeye's biscuits, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 large onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
4 large whole eggs, beaten
3 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Spread out the cubed biscuits in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Bake until dried out and begin to toast, rotating halfway through, about 30 minutes total. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Decrease oven heat to 350°F (175°C).
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a whisk or potato masher. Cook until beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add onions and carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until carrots begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add fennel, celery, garlic, sage, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until all vegetables have softened and are beginning to take on color, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Whisk together eggs, broth, and cream in a medium bowl until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over sausage and vegetable mixture. Add diced biscuits and gently fold until evenly combined.
Butter a 13- by 9-inch rectangular baking dish (or a 10- by 14-inch oval dish). Transfer the stuffing mixture and pack it down lightly. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking until the top is beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Increase oven to 425°F (220°C) and continue cooking until well browned, about 8 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
13- by 9-inch baking dish or 14- by 10-inch oval baking dish
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 27g||35%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||46%|
|Total Carbohydrate 50g||18%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||13%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 8mg||38%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|