Stuffing or dressing? Which do you prefer? I’m strictly a dressing guy myself. Either way you choose, this one has been my go-to recipe forever. It’s a riff on my mother’s and grandmother’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, and (if I do say so myself) it’s pretty darned good. Make no mistake, this is not diet food. THIS is extravagant comfort food, but that’s what the holidays are for, aren’t they? I’ve morphed this over the years from my grandmother’s original concept to make it my own.
This Is an herbaceous, earthy accompaniment to just about any holiday entrée. Of course, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is the most common in our house. But I’ve paired this dressing with a ham, roast pork, lamb, and beef over the years. Haven’t been disappointed yet.
And it’s a great jumping off point to make the dish your own. On more than one occasion, I’ve added sausage, apples, dried fruit, or cooked grains as augments to the dressing. When I was a kid, Mom would add canned oysters. I can promise you, you will never find canned oysters in this dish at my house – not even on a dare.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you on this recipe: don’t skimp on the bread. When I was a kid, my grandmother made this with mass-produced sandwich bread. That just doesn’t work. This needs to be a hearty, crusty, chewy loaf of bread. I grab a couple of loaves from the mega-mart bakery department, what they label as an ‘artisan loaf’. Makes all the difference in the world. Trust me.
The other piece of advice: don’t try to make this a calorie-friendly recipe. Just don’t. If you want calorie-friendly, either make something else or have a very small portion. It’s the holidays, butter is supposed to be your friend.
If you take those two bits of wisdom, the rest is pretty easy. Normally, I buy the bread a few days ahead, cube it, then lay the bread cubes out overnight to dry completely. Once dried, I store them in a zipper bag on the pantry shelf until I’m ready to assemble. Assembly is easily done the night before – just make sure you have room in the fridge. You know how the prep for those huge holiday meals can eat up the space.
Another tip: roast turkeys need to rest after cooking for quite awhile. Like, up to an hour. So once the turkey comes out, all the sides, including this dressing, go into the oven. Makes life so much easier… and leaves time for a glass of wine in the meantime. So have a happy holiday and I hope you enjoy this one as much as generations of my family have over the years.
Sage and Celery Stuffing
- 2 loaves of hearty bread approx.. 1 lb. each, cut into 1” cubes
- 2 sticks 1 C + 2T unsalted butter, divided
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 large onions cut into ½” dice
- 1 head of celery cut into ½” dice
- ¼ C chiffonade of fresh sage
- 2 t kosher salt
- 1 t ground black pepper
- 4 C chicken stock
- 3 eggs lightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 250° F.
- Place bread cubes on two baking sheets in a single layer.
- Bake for 1 hour or until bread is dried out but not browned.
- Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 C unsalted butter, bay leaves, onions, celery, sage, salt, and pepper.
- Sauté until vegetables are translucent, approximately 10-12 minutes.
- Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- In a very large mixing bowl, combine dried bread cubes, sautéed vegetable mixture, and chicken stock.
- Mix to combine.
- Let sit for 10 minutes and mix again.
- Let sit a second time if necessary until almost all of the chicken stock is absorbed.
- Add lightly beaten eggs and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Prepare a 13x9 inch baking pan with the remaining 2T of butter.
- Pour stuffing mixture into prepared baking pan.
- Place baking pan on a sheet tray and bake for approximately 1 hour, until stuffing is golden brown and firm to the touch.
- Let stand for 10 minutes before eating.
I also lay the cut bread cubes on a sheet tray overnight to dry out instead of drying them in a low oven.