my stuffing {or the not-quite-main dish that should be the main}

i think weird thoughts.
i am funny like that.
years ago while watching the movie - hanging up {don't get me started on how much i LOVE that movie!} - i came to the end scene with all the girls hanging in meg's kitchen and she announced "that's how you make my stuffing!" and here comes the weird thought....i instantly thought - i want MY own stuffing.
{i love stuffing...more than the star of the show i think. it's my favorite part.}

who thinks that? after such a great movie filled with love and loss and amazing decor - who walks away fixated on the stuffing? well i guess me. what - you didn't? ;)
{i have also had the thought that i want to bake the entire cake section of the gourmet cookbook but that's for another day...}

so i got to work.
i had one problem thought - the taste of my childhood.
there was a turkey company - fletcher's i think? - who every year, come turkey time, released a stuffing mix that sat alongside the turkeys and was only available at turkey time and was the best ever. this was THE base. your jumping off point. THIS was what i loved. this taste.
so when i came to my stuffing challenge i knew what i was going to use - dried fruit, fresh apples & seeds - but it was the base that was tripping me up.



now i had to get my thinking cap on.
many many stuffing's later, i had a great one down but i still lacked that "taste". i had one that was bursting with flavour, ingredients and truly tasted like holidays. and my guest never complained but i knew. in the back of my mind was always that little voice that said "it's good but....it's not there yet."

i hated that voice.

one day i was talking about it with my mom, telling her my tale of woe - again i am not like the norm, this is a woe for me - and she interupted me and yelled {well not quite yell but not just said} "i figured it out! i figured out that taste - poultry seasoning!!"
and the rest is history.

and today i am sharing it with you.

holiday stuffing {or dressing}
okay so here i am going to ask you to channel your inner cook. there really is no recipe here - mine is always slightly different every time. i am going to give you the guide lines but it's all about feel, look and taste. yes this is my recipe but it's also yours. you don't like something i have here? don't put it in. looks like it may be too much of one thing for your taste? leave it out. want to add a twist? go for it! have fun with it and make it YOUR own. there are no rules here!

6 to 8 cups of unseasoned dried bread - crouton size
1 onion - chopped {slightly larger than a dice
4 stalks of celery - chopped {slightly larger than a dice}
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 cup of chicken stock {you will only need 1/2 cup if your are stuffing your bird.}
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 medium sized apple - cored and chopped {add some more if you feel it get's "lost" in the mix - you want to notice it!}
approx. 1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
approx. 1/3 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
approx. 1/3 cup dries cranberries
approx. 1/3 cup dried apricots - chopped
butter {optional}

okay so for me the prep starts the night before. i get a ciabatta baguette, cut it up in to approx. 1-inch chunks, spread them out on a sheet pan and put the in a pre-heated 200 degree oven for about 2 hours or until they are dry. once dry, turn off the oven and leave them in there to cool down. {i usually do this at night so i turn it off and leave them in there till the next morning.}

heat a deep saucepan over medium heat. drop a few glugs of olive oil here and add your onions and celery. season with a sprinkle of salt and about 7 grinds of pepper - critical step to season here. sautee your vegetables until they are slightly translucent - about 5 minutes. add your bread chunks and toss them with the celery and onions till they are glistening and getting a little toasted. sprinkle the poultry seasoning over top and cook all together for about a minute. now we are cooking!! add your apple and let that get in there for bout a minute then add your seeds. let those get all sizzly in there and add 1/2 cup of chicken stock just to get it all moist. add your dried fruit and let it get all incorporated together. try it..do you like it? if not, adjust your seasoning. once satisfied, remove from heat.

now you can do one of two things: let this cool down completely and stuff your bird or....place it in a casserole dish and pop it into the oven. i casserole mine since i have no turkey to stuff. if you choose option one, you are on your own...if you choose option two, make sure your oven is pre-heated to 350F and place your mix into a dish you feel confident will hold it and that will look pretty on your table - i used a 2 quart round dish that i traded my mom a grecian clock for one christmas morning - i'm hard to buy gifts for. evenly pour the remaining chicken stock over the top. if you want to get a golden crust on the top, then just before you pop it in the oven, dot the top with some butter. place it in your pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes.
pull it out, admire it and enjoy it. you made it.


Anonymous said...

I think this looks wonderful and I want to make it! MY problem is that whenever I try to do anything fun with the stuffing--like putting pecans and craisins in it one time--everyone else gets all huffy because they want the stuffing that they've always had every single year. I got the same reaction when I did pork roast (rolled up around stuffing) for Christmas dinner. These people are all so boring! LOL.

Jen said...

lesley - make two!! state that this one is strictly for you and you will see how fast they will want to know why! ha!