When I married my husband over 17 years ago (gasp!), I was more than excited to start hosting some of the holidays at our new home. But I soon realized that my husband’s traditions were slightly different from the ones I grew up with, especially on Thanksgiving. What? No first course of pasta with marinara sauce? Strange, I thought, but I could adapt! My mother-in-law kindly shared with me the way things were done on the West Coast. She liked to serve everyone a salad to start and plate the main dinner for each person in the kitchen. Turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing were all givens, and their stuffing of choice was Pepperidge Farm. No problem!
My husband and I have hosted every Thanksgiving since 1996 and enjoy the comfort that develops when you do something over and over again. I have since incorporated my own traditions like buffet – easier and much less waste – and soup to start. About 6 years ago I decided to examine the ingredients on the seemingly innocuous bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing. Holy crap. I couldn’t believe the garbage that went into breadcrumbs! One thing I knew for certain was that Pepperidge Farm was uninvited to Thanksgiving…forever!
Actually, if it were up to me, I would drop stuffing from the menu altogether. I really don’t get it. With ALL the delicious food on the Thanksgiving table, many of the dishes starchy, we’re going to eat gussied up bread, a food we already overeat on every other day of the year?? I was trying to explain to my husband that mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are all starches, as is the obligatory cornbread. We should balance out the meal with additional vegetables, like Brussels sprouts! “You’re taking this health food thing a little too far. The stuffing stays!”
Although I like to think of myself as the dictator of my kitchen empire, the director of Thanksgiving, I’m really a democratic leader. I figured my only option was to create a delicious, higher quality stuffing that looked like Pepperidge Farm and tasted enough like it, but even better. So here’s my take on a good classic stuffing that’s not too gourmet, in fact tastes very close to our old preservative-laden standby. I usually make two for our dinner, one with mushrooms to suit me and one without for my hubby.
I’ve tried this stuffing with whole grain breads like whole wheat or spelt, but truthfully it tastes a little “wheat-y.” There was a fantastic bread I used to buy from Whole Foods called Miche, which was a sourdough bread made of a blend of whole wheat and white flours. That was about as whole grain as my family could take on Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I prefer to go down in our family history as the benevolent one who said, “ let them eat stuffing!”
- 1 ½ pounds rustic whole wheat or white bread, hard crust removed
- 6 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced
- ½ pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, quartered
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried sage or poultry seasoning or 2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons sea salt or 3 teaspoons if using unsalted stock
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3-4 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (depending on if you like it wet or dry)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small dice (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place bread in a food processor and process into large crumbs or cut into ½-inch dice. (I like to do a combination.) You should have 10 cups. Spread bread over 2 large shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until completely dry, about 25 minutes. Transfer bread to a large bowl.
- Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees and grease a 13x9-inch baking dish.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, onion, leeks, and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened, 10 minutes.
- Stir in thyme, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Add vegetables to bread, tossing to combine.
- Pour chicken broth over the bread mixture, tossing to coat evenly.
- Spread stuffing in a baking dish, dot with butter and cover tightly with foil. Bake in upper third of oven until heated through, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake stuffing until top is browned, 10 – 15 minutes more. Stuffing can also be baked in a well-greased 12-cup muffin tin.
Vegetables can be chopped the day before.
Entire casserole can be prepared up to the point of baking the day before and refrigerated or frozen and then thawed and baked according to the directions.
I made it and it was so good The leftover I did savory pancakes by edding milk and eggs it’s so delicious!! Thank you Pamela for all delicious recipes
Ooooh, savory pancakes are such a good idea!
I so enjoy your advice and your tastes! I am going to try your stuffing this year but if I leave out the mushrooms(as you do for your husband) what do I add instead? Celery? I prefer no meat. Thanks for your advice and your blog!
No problem! Just double the celery and onion if omitting the mushrooms.
Do you think it would be possible to make this recipe in a slow cooker? I know the oven will be used for other dishes so was thinking this could be a good option. I’ve seen posts on other sites that you can adapt any stuffing recipe for the crockpot by adding eggs (1.5 eggs per loaf of bread), decreasing the liquid by 25%, and cooking for several hours on low. What do you think?
Oops sorry. I thought my prior comment didn’t post. Please go ahead and remove this.
Do you think it would be possible to do this recipe in a slow cooker? I know the oven will be taken up with other dishes and have seen on other sites that you can convert any standard stuffing recipe to a slow cooker by adding in eggs (1.5 eggs per loaf of bread), decreasing the liquid by 25%, on cooking on low for several hours.
Gosh, I don’t know. Your adjustments make sense to me. I think I would also grease the insert really well.
Thanks Pamela for the reply. If I try it, I’ll let you know how it goes!
So just to be clear what’s the best bread to buy? A sliced one ? Is Miche still around at WF?
Sadly, the miche bread is no longer offered at Whole Foods. There is no right or wrong bread to use, as long as you like it and you remove very hard crusts. My point above was that my family didn’t like all whole wheat bread. You can use sourdough, peasant bread, sandwich bread, etc. Sliced bread is fine unless you prefer large cubes of bread in your stuffing.
My husband wants chicken sausage in the stuffing so would i be able to incorporate that into this recipe?
Yes! Buy sausage in bulk or remove it from the casings. Saute the sausage meat and break it up into smaller pieces in the pan. Add that to your dried bread cubes. You can saute the veggies in the same pan you used for the sausage. I would try 1/2 pound to 1 pound of sausage.
I’m making this stuffing again for the second year in a row (along with the chicken sausage one from your class!). What is better … to prep entire stuffing on Wednesday and bake it on Thursday? Or actually bake it on Wednesday and reheat Thursday? Thank you!!
Great, me too! Definitely better to prep them on Wednesday and bake on Thursday!! Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Any chance I can cook this stuffing inside the turkey? I know some people do not like this method but I have a few guests begging for it to be cooked inside. Thank you!
Of course you can! BUT, it will cause the turkey to need more time to be cooked and you have to take the temperature of the stuffing to make sure it isn’t in the “bacteria zone.” Stick an instant-read thermometer in the middle of the stuffing and make sure it reaches 165 degrees. If the turkey hits 165 before the stuffing, I would take the turkey out of the oven to rest and transfer the stuffing to a casserole dish and bake it longer. Also, do not overstuff the bird because the bread will expand. Hope that helps!
Love this recipe. Wonder have you considered or would you recommend doing this gluten-free?
I should have put in my 2 cents about using GF bread. I have tried this recipe several times with different GF breads and it has always turned out great, but some GF breads are moister than non-GF and will take less stock. The problem is that they are all different so you kind of have to wing it.
yum, this looks good. For my first ever cooking of thanksgiving, this will be my stuffing! 🙂
Everything will be fantastic! xx
To make this kosher, what would you substitute for the butter? Thanks!