Do you call it stuffing or dressing? Do you know the difference? If not, here’s a hint: Stuffing goes inside the turkey; dressing is baked separately. If you already knew that, did you know this: food safety wise, it’s better to make dressing? If you put stuffing inside the bird, it needs to get to 165 degrees, at least, to be safe. At that point, your holiday turkey is sawdust. For food safety tips, if you plan to do stuffing, CLICK HERE . Also know that the USDA does not recommend buying pre-stuffed turkeys.
So that leaves dressing. But what kind do you like? What kind would you like to try? Meat or no meat? Bread or cornbread? There are lots of options. And no matter what kind of dressing you make, you can make it your own by adding some special touches – diced apples, dried cranberries or apricots, or various kinds of nuts. In the South, oyster dressing is popular. Here are some recipes to try, to improve on the packaged-bread-cubes version you may have had as a kid:
Traditional Basic Dressing
2 baguettes, country, or sourdough bread (1 pound)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus more for baking dish
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
½ cup freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten
The day before: Tear or slice bread into 1/4″ cubes and leave out overnight to dry out (Alternately, place bread on baking sheets and bake at 200º for 20 minutes). When you’re ready to make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350º and butter a large baking dish. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery and cook until soft and fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Stir in parsley, sage, thyme, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
Place bread in a large bowl and add skillet mixture. Toss to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together chicken broth and beaten eggs and pour over bread mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss until completely coated. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake until cooked through, 45 minutes, then remove foil and cook until bread is golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.
Like we said before, you can dress this up with dried fruits for your own twist on things, but this basic recipe is a winner as-is.
If you like cornbread dressing, try this recipe from Food Network’s Claire Robinson:
Southern Cornbread Dressing
8 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large Vidalia or Spanish onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
¾ cup water
6 cups cubed (1-inch pieces) store-bought or homemade cornbread, about 1 pound
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves, about 12, stems removed
2 large eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter; add the onions and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring often, until light golden, about 6 to 8 minutes and remove from the pan to a small plate. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the water, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet and allowing the water to simmer just a couple of minutes to infuse in the onion flavor. Remove from the heat.
Put the cornbread in a large mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat and let it bubble until the milk solids to start to turn golden. Add the sage leaves and briefly fry until beginning to crisp, about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove sage and put on top of cornbread to drain and crisp. Remove the butter from the heat. Add the eggs and cooked onions to the cornbread and pour the browned butter over the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the onion infused water, a tablespoon at a time, gently folding, until cornbread is evenly moistened but not soggy. Pour the dressing into a 9 by 11-inch baking dish and bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown in color and the dressing is set in the middle, about 30 minutes.
And if you like meat with your meat, here’s the Barefoot Contessa’s sausage stuffing.
Sausage and Herb Dressing
16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough (1 1/2 pound loaf)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 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, parsley, 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.
Cook’s tip: If you want to test the seasoning in your dressing before you bake it, but don’t want to eat it raw, drop a test teaspoonful into a small skillet and cook it for a few minutes, then taste it.
These recipes are all delicious and no matter which one you make and eat you’ll be … well, stuffed.
For more holiday articles:
Save money by daring to change traditions
35 ways to save money and time over the holidays
Make your own holiday gift bags
Thoughtful holiday gifts on a budget