Each week, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.
Today: A family recipe for stuffing that calls for homemade sausage and the squishiest white sandwich bread you can find.
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There are a handful of things that make me feel like a real, live adult: Balancing my checkbook is one, putting on lipstick without a mirror is another, and a third is successfully recreating a family recipe. This last one is particularly difficult, since the Nicolettis have a habit of never writing down anything in the kitchen (when they do, it’s mostly “pinches,” “handfuls,” and “’til it looks done”). This stuffing was made by my Grandy and passed on to my dad -- waking up early to make it with him was always my favorite part of Thanksgiving when I was a kid.
Unlike most sausage stuffings, which cook the sausage first and bind the stuffing with eggs, this one omits the eggs and uses the sausage as a binder. As a kid, we used shrink-wrapped logs of Jimmy Dean sausage, but these days, since I make sausage for a living and am a bona fide a-dult, I make the sausage from scratch, which makes this stuffing even better. I’m not budging on the cheap white sandwich bread, though. That stays.
Makes one 10 x 14-inch casserole dish, plus 5 cups for stuffing the turkey
For the sage sausage:
2 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder (or any mix of cuts that is 70% lean to 30% fat) 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons kosher salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage, ground Splash of white wine (about 1/8 cup) 1/4 cup ice water
For the stuffing:
1 pound white bread (the cheaper the better!), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 3 medium yellow onions, chopped 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced thin 4 large celery ribs, chopped 3 green bell peppers, cored and diced 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt (you may want to decrease this if you’re using a particularly salty stock) 2 1/2 pounds sage sausage 1 cup chicken or turkey stock
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog, Yummy-Books.com, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.