Ahh the holidays – a time for the warm scent of cinnamon and mulled wine to waft through the house and tickle our noses, the sweet smokiness of honey-baked ham lingering on our lips, and let us not forget the rolling hills of garlicky mashed potatoes (enough to send any blood-suckers or lovers away) filling our already-stuffed bellies.
All this comfort food makes us quickly forget about any hardships faced throughout the year and brings the year to a delicious close of complete and utter drop-down-to-our-knees acceptance that our diets are on hold until the new year.
For my family, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been the two holidays of the year where we stop cooking Chinese food for once (albeit as delicious as it is – you can only eat so much). My mother always prepares a 19 to 23-pound perfectly moist and browned crispy-skinned turkey (regardless of how small the guest turnout is) – always basted and never brined. My father prepares a glorious potato salad chock full of honey ham and sliced eggs, leaving the job of making the stuffing up to me.
A few years ago, we stopped stuffing the turkey with bread crumbs after we heard about health concerns involved with doing so. I thought nothing could replace the savory, glistening stuffing that came from a turkey’s cavity, and fought against the idea. But I later found the joys of making stuffing in a 9×12-inch baking dish – complete with a myriad of flavors and ingredients that I normally wouldn’t have added inside a turkey.
I stumbled upon Ina Garten’s recipe for stuffing that combined sweet, spicy and tartness – even bringing in the use of sourdough bread as a welcoming alternative to white bread. The mixture of cranberries, Granny Smith apples and spicy Italian sausage was just what I needed to kick up an old recipe…with a colorful presentation as well!
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
10 cups 1-inch bread cubes of day-old sourdough bread (1-lb loaf)
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
2 cups medium-dice celery (4 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped sage
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dried cranberries
*Note: I bought a sliced loaf of sourdough bread, let that sit out for a day, and cut that into cubes. It was definitely a time-saver having pre-sliced bread and didn’t affect the texture at all.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7-10 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, herbs, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.
In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.
Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.
Note: The stuffing can be made up to a day in advance and left in the refrigerator until ready to be baked.