Every year the stuffing gets me. The scent of onions and celery sizzling in butter transports me back to my childhood kitchen, working alongside my mom to prep Thanksgiving dinner with the pep of the Macy’s Parade marching bands in the background. For me, the Thanksgiving meal is really about the stuffing, it’s my favorite thing on the buffet. My mouth is watering now just typing about it!
You can’t compare box stuffing to this recipe here. This is spectacular — all the ingredients are great ones. It does call for the extra step of making your own croutons, but it is worth the end result. Trust me. Stuffing should be decadent, flavorful, with crispy bits mixed into that velvety smooth texture. Here, we add sausage to take it over the top. Yes, it’s gilding the lily, but that’s what the Thanksgiving feast is all about.
We don’t stuff the stuffing and you really shouldn’t, either. It’s high probability risk of serving up salmonella alongside those mashed potatoes and gravy. The cavity of the bird just doesn’t get warm enough to kill potential bacteria, if it were to get hot enough, you’ve got one dry, tough bird on your hands. If you’re looking to stuff your turkey, do so with a few small onions, sliced in half and a whole bunch of fresh herbs.
For baking the stuffing, grab a large ceramic baking dish, smear it with butter, pile in the stuffing, drizzle a little oil over the top and bake until golden crispy bits form on top. Then, serve up this truly homemade dish and enjoy every savory bite. You can use less sausage and still achieve great flavor, but over here we go whole hog. Cheers!
Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing
Serves eight as a side
1 lb loaf ciabatta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups diced yellow – about 2 small onions
2 cups diced celery – about 4 ribs
½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal – less if using Morton’s)
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
First make your croutons.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cube the ciabatta into 1” pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake on a large sheet pan or two, if it’s crowded until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Shake the pan half way through cooking.
To make your stuffing.
Set the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the sausage from it’s casing and sauté in a large, dry skillet set to medium high heat – breaking up into coin size morsels of sausage. When the sausage is browned (about 10 minutes) remove it from the pan and reserve for later use.
Now, add the butter to the pan with the remaining sausage drippings. Once the butter melts and foam begins to appear add the celery and onion. Scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan as it cooks – if the bits on the pan are bordering on a scary brown color (like, burning) you can add a splash (¼ – ½ cup) of stock or water or better yet, white wine, to the pan as it cooks. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat until the onions are translucent.
Next, add the croutons, stock, cooked sausage, parsley, sage, salt and pepper and continue to cook on medium until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the croutons – stir to fully incorporate. Smear the bottom of a large baking dish with room temperature butter and add the stuffing. Drizzle the top of the stuffing with olive oil; this will keep the croutons from burning. Cook 45 minutes, checking periodically so things don’t get too dark. If they do, cover loosely with foil. Remove from oven and serve.