A Thanksgiving Stuffing to Stuff in Your Fridge Now (Yes, Now)

October 30, 2017

With November almost here, finally, I imagine many soon-to-be Thanksgiving hosts across the country are digging out their recipe files, drafting their menus, making monstrous grocery lists, and crafting their game-day plans. If any of these hosts are like me, many of the same questions are arising:

To brine the turkey or not? How to cook it this year? Low and slow? Fast and furious? Stuffed? Deep Fried? Spatchcocked? In pieces?

Can you resist not eating this right away? Photo by Alexandra Stafford

The how-to-cook-the-bird question, for me, may never be answered. Where I have found resolve, however, is in stuffing. The recipe I love, which I included in my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, yields a stuffing with a crisp golden exterior and a creamy center, flavorful enough to eat on its own, but welcoming to many a relish, sauce, gravy or anything else the Thanksgiving plate has to offer. Best of all, it can be customized to your preferences and prepped ahead: Make this today, freeze it, and on November 23d, pop it straight into the oven—no need to take up precious refrigerator space with an overnight thaw (see details below).

Here’s What I Do:

  • Buy (or bake) a couple loaves of country-style white bread and remove the crust. Most loaves in grocery stores or high-end bakeries will have thick crusts, which, in my opinion, are too tough for stuffing. If you bake bread with a softer crust, like this Genius-approved No-Knead Peasant Bread, there is no need to remove the crust. For stuffing, I prefer neutral flavored bread as opposed to sourdough or cornbread, but, of course, use what you like.
Look at this weirdo. Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Tear the bread into irregular chunks or dice into cubes, toss with a generous amount of olive oil, and toast until golden. From a somewhat fussy but incredibly delicious Suzanne Goin recipe published in Bon Appétit several years ago, I learned that saturating the cubes of bread with a generous amount of oil before toasting them, makes for an especially tasty and beautifully golden stuffing. From a wise Italian nonna, Antonietta Fazone, I learned that toasting bread as opposed to staling it is preferable for preserving its flavor. While visiting Antonietta one day, she ran a slice of bread she had dried out under a streaming faucet, then broke off a piece for me to taste. Next, she ran a slice of stale bread under the faucet, then handed me that piece to compare, but there was no comparison—the one she had oven-dried was the unmistakable winner. Toasting had preserved the flavor, staling had not.
Toast, don't dehydrate. Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Prepare seasonings and add-ins according to your preferences. Stuffing can be viewed as a blank canvas, dressed up with spicy sausage or briny oysters or kept bare bones with onion, celery, and maybe a dash of Bell’s Seasoning. Festive additions include cranberries, prunes, dates, roasted chestnuts, crisped pancetta or bacon, sautéed apples and shredded Brussels sprouts, but stuffing is amenable to countless seasonings, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats. Here I've kept it somewhat simple with not-quite caramelized onions and kale.
Keep it simple—or don't! Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Toss bread and add-ins with stock, salt, and pepper. If you are making a vegetarian stuffing, obviously use vegetable stock. Otherwise, chicken or turkey stock will not only keep the stuffing moist but also impart it with a rich, meaty flavor. Once the stuffing is tossed, taste it. This is when it’s important to get the seasoning right. The mixture should taste well seasoned, almost like a panzanella salad—it should taste so good, in fact, you wouldn’t mind stopping right then and there, calling the dish done.
It should taste like you wouldn't mind eating it uncooked, like a salad. Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Whisk one egg with a little more stock, then toss one last time. The addition of one egg helps bind the stuffing. This is not essential, but if you like a stuffing that sticks together, add the egg. If you don’t mind having a looser-textured stuffing, omit the egg.
Later, 'gater! Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Transfer stuffing to buttered baking dish, cover with foil, and freeze until Thanksgiving (or up to 3 months), transfer to the oven to bake. To cook frozen stuffing: Bake directly from the freezer covered for one hour at 350º F. Uncover, increase the temperature to 400º F, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more. Alternatively, if space permits, thaw in the fridge overnight, and bake covered for 30 minutes at 400º F, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes more. If you want to eat it now, the process is the same: Bake first for 30 minutes covered at 400º F, then for 15 to 20 minutes more uncovered, or until the top layer of bread is golden and crisp. No special occasion required.

What are you freezing early for Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Baxter
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    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Baxter November 20, 2018
Instead of freezing, can I prepare this the day before and refrigerate overnight having egg in it?
EmilyC October 31, 2017
Can't wait to try this! These days I almost always have some of your peasant bread around, and kale too, so this needs to happen soon!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. November 1, 2017
Emily, this makes me so happy!! I hope it does happen soon :) :) :) xo
AntoniaJames October 30, 2017
More here on why drying and not staling is the better option: I do a lot of things ahead, including filling my freezer to achieve a number of different objectives during the month of November, e.g., , but stuffing is the one item I never freeze. That's because what makes stuffing so great are the aromatics and herbs, which never have quite the punch after being frozen, than when assembled and baked fresh. (Plus, a lot of vegetables undergo textural changes due to their cell structure.) What I do instead is to chop and saute the aromatics, mushrooms, etc. on the Sunday before and park them in the fridge. On the evening before, I stale the bread (so little effort), chop the herbs and assemble the stuffing; then I cook it most of the way at a convenient time on Thanksgiving Day, and finish it in the hot oven during the hour that the turkey rests. More here (also answering the question posed above): ;o)
Author Comment
Alexandra S. October 30, 2017
Wow! What a schedule ... impressive. Thanks for sharing so many great tips here, AJ!
AntoniaJames October 30, 2017
Thanks, Alexandra. That schedule is actually pretty tame . . . mostly small tasks, simply identified and calendared, project management style. This year, I'm going to print out the grid and note exactly how long each of the stated tasks takes. Typically, I'll spend 2-3 hours over the weekend before, maybe an hour on each of Monday and Tuesday, and about 2 hours on Wednesday. The tasks for earlier in the month -- making stock, making bread, etc. -- are things I do anyway, throughout the year, so it's no real additional work. ;o)

P.S. Depending on where we decide to take our Thanksgiving hike / how early we plan to leave in the morning, I might do the initial bake of the stuffing Wednesday evening. Either way, Thanksgiving Day will be quite manageable, and relaxing (once we get off the mountain).