If you're still getting your Thanksgiving stuffing from a box -- stop! Stuffing is not only one of the most important elements of your Thanksgiving dinner, but also one of the simplest. So there's no excuse not to make a delicious and unique stuffing from scratch.
One of the most common types of stuffing is, of course, bread stuffing. Bread stuffing can be unique and tasty in many ways, using different types of bread, spices, vegetables and even meat. You can always use white bread, but why be boring?
Here are great alternatives to white bread:
- Flavored breads like olive, rosemary or walnut bread. If you decide to use a flavored bread, be sure to use similar flavors in your stuffing. For example, if you're using rosemary bread, add rosemary sprigs to flavor your stuffing.
There are a few ways to cook the stuffing other than inside a turkey. In fact, you might want to avoid doing that, since cooking the stuffing inside the turkey can actually dry the turkey out. A simple way is just to prepare the stuffing, then put it in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. You can also make a stovetop stuffing. If you have the time and want to prepare items in advance, use the slow cooker to make the stuffing the night before and let it slow-cook all day long.
You may not think about using rice in your stuffing but it's a good replacement for bread. You can even use similar grains like couscous, quinoa or even orzo pasta. Any type of grain works perfectly in stuffing because just about any flavor components complement it. Some grains do have different flavors -- for example, couscous has a slightly nutty taste, and different types of rice can have varying flavors (like wild rice versus white rice). With that in mind, it's a good idea to taste your grain before adding the other ingredients to be sure they work well. Also, be aware that all grains soak up liquid differently so you may need to add more or less liquid than given in the recipe if you switch the grains. Check the instructions on the grain package to determine how much liquid is suggested -- you don't want dry or soggy stuffing!
Just because turkey is the star of the table doesn't mean you have to use turkey in the stuffing. There are a huge variety of meats that can be used in stuffing. Sausage is a great choice for stuffing. You can use Italian sausage, spicy sausage, chorizo or any of your other favorite types of sausage. Be sure to match the flavors in the stuffing to the herbs and spices you use. You can even use ground meats like beef, pork or chicken, which work well with bread or grain. Finally, a tasty option for stuffing meats os shellfish, like crab or oysters. Keep the other ingredients simple in order to bring out the taste of the seafood. You can even try mixing the shellfish with meats to have even more flavor.
Vegetarian does not mean bland and boring, especially with stuffing! In place of meat, you can use fruit, vegetables and nuts.
- Any fall fruit like apples, apricots, cranberries or dried fruits will work well.
- Fall produce also works like root vegetables, pumpkin, squash or figs.
- For some added texture, mix in nuts like walnuts, pecans, pine nuts or even chestnuts. Toast the nuts for a little extra flavor, then sprinkle them on top of the finished stuffing for a tasty final crunch. Crumbled crackers also work great sprinkled on top of the stuffing.
Wild rice and mushroom stuffing
Makes 12 servings
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 6-3/4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups wild rice
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped celery
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
- Sauté garlic and onions in butter in a saucepan until tender. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a slow simmer. Stir in half the rice, cover mixture with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and stir in the rest of the rice, then simmer another 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in mushrooms, celery, salt, pepper and rosemary. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
- Spoon mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle pecans on top of mixture. Cover with lid and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Makes 12 servings
- 1/2 pound of crumbled chorizo
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 cups prepared cornbread
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, de-veined and chopped
- 1/2 white onion, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup fennel, chopped
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoons rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Sauté chorizo in oil until browned; add chorizo to a bowl with cornbread and gently stir to crumble cornbread.
- Add pepper, onion and fennel to same pan and cook until tender, then add chicken broth. Let cook for a few minutes, then stir in cornbread-chorizo mixture, salt, rosemary and pepper, stirring well.
- Spoon stuffing into a casserole dish and bake covered in a 350 degree F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until fully cooked.
Apple and sage stuffing
Makes 8 servings
- 1 cup white onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 whole unpeeled apples, chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 4 cups crusty Italian bread, chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons ground sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- Sauté onion and celery in oil until tender; mix in apple and cranberries and sauté until softened.
- Spoon apple mixture into a bowl and stir in Italian bread, broth, sage, salt and pepper. Stir well.
- Spoon stuffing into a casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes or until cooked through.
What is your favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe? Share in the comments section below!
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