Time: 20 minutes, plus time to bake
This classic dressing is based on a wonderful recipe by James Beard; it's amazing with butter, but check out the variations if you prefer olive oil. Also, feel free to use whole grain bread for more flavor.
Read more: Mark Bittman's Minimalist Thanksgiving
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
- 6 to 8 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried crumbled tarragon or sage
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped scallion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Put the butter in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the breadcrumbs and the herb and toss to mix. Turn the heat down to low. Add the salt, pepper, and scallion. Toss again; taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the parsley and stir. Turn off the heat. (At this point, you may refrigerate the stuffing, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to a day before proceeding.)
Pack into chicken or turkey if you like before roasting or just bake in an ovenproof glass or enameled baking dish for about 45 minutes at 350-400°F. (Or you can cook it up to 3 days in advance and just warm it up right before dinner.)
Bread Stuffing with Giblets and Fruit. Finely chop the gizzard, heart, and liver. In Step 1, add the giblets to the onion after it softens. Omit the nuts. In Step 2, add 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried), 1 finely crumbled bay leaf, 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pitted prunes, and 2 cups peeled and diced tart apples. Omit the tarragon and scallion.
Bread Stuffing with Sage and Chestnuts. Start by boiling or roasting 3/4 to 1 pound chestnuts until they are tender. Shell, skin, and chop. Cook the onion as in Step 1. When soft, add the chestnuts and 1/2 cup dry white wine (omit the nuts). Simmer for 5 minutes. In Step 2, use sage and just 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley.
Bread Stuffing with Sausage. In Step 1, omit the butter. Cook 1 pound sausage meat (you can squeeze the meat from links) in its own fat over medium heat until pinkish gray. Spoon off the fat, then add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Omit the nuts. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger), and 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional). Omit the tarragon or sage.
Bread Stuffing with Mushrooms. In Step 1, use butter or olive oil and cook 1 cup sliced button mushrooms along with the onion. If you have them, add 1 ounce soaked, drained, trimmed, and minced porcini mushrooms at the same time. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic when the mushrooms have softened. Omit the nuts. Use sage or thyme (1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried).