Welcome to Blooper Week, where we'll be polling various cooks and food writers -- as well as the Food52 staff -- about their biggest Thanksgiving bloopers and their essential tips to avoid future disasters.
Today: We're sourcing stuffing tips and bloopers from the Food52 team. And we want to hear yours, too!
Of all the old favorites on the Thanksgiving table, stuffing may leave the most room for variety -- and for argument. There's stuffing, and then there's dressing, and there are issues of what you add to yours and where you cook it and whether it's wet or dry. There are fruits and vegetables and, sometimes, oysters. There's room for adaptation, but there's also room for disaster: We've all had soggy, or overly dry, or burnt iterations, and they were all a disappointment. A dish that binds together so many ingredients should, after all, be something you can depend on.
Today, we're sharing some of our staff's most clutch stuffing tips, to help you with yours next week -- and we're also sharing a few of our stuffing bloopers, to make sure you only follow in our most successful footsteps.
Christina: Stuffin' Muffins changed my world. We spent Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law's family the year she and my brother got engaged, and her family started spooning 3 different kinds of stuffing into muffin tins. The genius of it is that each scoop gets nice and crispy and everyone gets their own portion.
Rachel: My grandmother always had to have chestnuts in her stuffing -- be careful, as they explode in the oven if they aren't pierced first. This has happened to me!
Michael: David Tanis had a genius idea: Fold in chopped raw chicken livers before baking. I never won't do that.
More: Another way to serve chicken livers? In paté. (Go ahead -- feed it to your kids.)
Maddy: I think I've mentioned this recipe a dozen times, but I always make my mother's jalapeño cornbread dressing. The secret is to moisten it enough that the cornbread nearly disintegrates into the wet ingredients (chicken stock, egg, sautéed onion, celery, and jalapeño) so the baked texture is like a bread pudding.
Kenzi: Bursting chestnuts! I'm hopping on the blooper train. The first time I made Thanksgiving, it was at my parents' house, and it was before my loving mother and I realized that it's probably best for everyone if we cook separately during the thick of things. (Prepping vegetables the night before together? Great. Chatting over a glass of wine at the end? Grand.)
This past year, things got really frazzled somewhere in between the gratin and the butternut squash, and as we were trying to oven-jockey, our pan of perfect stuffing fell to the floor, cracked, sunk. We also fell to the floor. Things were vaguely burning in the background. And then we picked it up, salvaged what we could, and put it back in the oven. One hour later, we ate it. And it was good.
More: We've got a few handsome dishes to serve your stuffing in. If you're into that sort of thing.
Amanda: Most stuffing is a thick mushy layer topped with a thin crisp layer -- too much mush to crisp. To change this up, spread the stuffing in a larger dish than your recipe calls for so you end up with 50% mush, 50% crisp.
Jennifer: Sausage makes everything better, and stuffing is no exception. Also, like Rachel, I love to use chestnuts in my stuffing (don't tell, but the ones in the jar work just as well as freshly roasted for a stuffing!).
Tell us in the comments: How do you make your stuffing? Do you have any stuffing disasters to share? (Don't worry. This is a safe space.)
Photos by James Ransom