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Author Notes: I didn't eat stuffing/dressing when I was growing up. My mother's was always mushy and pasty gray. When I was 16, we combined Thanksgiving with our next-door neighbors. Mom's friend Dori brought her plain bread stuffing, which looked invitingly non-gray and unmushy and was full of flavor. I put myself in charge of making my family's stuffing from then on. I've harvested techniques, combinations and ideas from Dori, Julia Child, Michael Ruhlman and others so that now, 50 years later, I think my stuffing is a true simple pleasure. For optimum flavor, make sure your turkey is thawed by Thanksgiving Eve. —betteirene
Serves at least 10 as a side dish
For the Corn Bread
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup (5 1/2 tablespoons) butter, melted, or vegetable oil
For the Stuffing/Dressing
- 2 16-20 oz. loaves French or Italian bread
- 1 turkey, of any size
- 1 stick butter, divided
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 whole carrots
- Kosher salt
- Coarse ground pepper
- 5-10 leaves of dried fresh sage, rubbed between palms into a pile of fluff, or 1 tablespoon dried sage
- As early as possible the day before Thanksgiving, turn the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9" baking pan, casserole or round cake pan.
- Place the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and stir together. Add the egg, milk and melted butter; with a rubber scraper, stir and fold all ingredients together until moistened, being careful to not overmix.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool.
- Cut the French bread into cubes, pile onto two cookie sheets and set aside.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt half a stick of butter in an oven-safe Dutch oven or a 4-quart casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Remove the giblets from the turkey, along with the "Pope's nose," and rinse with cold water; place in the Dutch oven. (Rinse the turkey with cold water, place in a roasting pan and put the whole thing inside a plastic trash can liner; keep refrigerated until ready to roast.)
- Cut off the root end of the onion and discard. Carefully cut through the peel and two layers of the onion; put this section into the Dutch oven, peel and all. Dice the center of the onion and reserve, refrigerated in a plastic bag until needed. Wash celery and chop off the entire leafy top of the stalk; place in Dutch oven. Remove three or four of the outer ribs of the celery stalk; wash and slice, then refrigerate the slices in a plastic bag until needed. Cut the top off the carrots and discard; place carrots in the Dutch oven. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. of Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Place in oven and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally, until turkey and vegetables are browned, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Bring three quarts of water and two teaspoons of Kosher salt to a boil. When turkey parts and vegetables have caramelized, carefully pour or ladle the hot water into the Dutch oven. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees and allow stock to simmer for an hour. Put the cookie sheets of French bread into the oven to dry, stirring once or twice. Let stock cool to room temperature, taste it and correct the seasoning by adding additional salt, pepper or water, and refrigerate. Put bread cubes into a very large mixing bowl, coarsely crumble the cornbread over the bread and set aside, uncovered.
- On Thanksgiving morning, strain the turkey stock through a colander and discard everything except the turkey neck; bring the stock to a simmer over medium-low heat. Melt 1/2 stick of butter over low heat in a small saucepan; stir in the reserved onions and allow to cook slowly until soft, about five minutes. Pour over dried bread cubes and stir in the reserved sliced celery. Sprinkle with three tablespoons of the freshly-rubbed sage, then ladle over enough of the stock make the bread moist without being soppy wet. Mix well. Taste, and add more sage, salt and pepper if needed. Strain, reserve and refrigerate the remainder of the stock for making gravy.
- Remove turkey from refrigerator and fill both ends of the bird loosely with the stuffing. Roast according to directions on wrapper. Place remainder of the stuffing into a buttered casserole, top with the turkey neck, cover and refrigerate until one hour before serving; reheat at 350 for about an hour. Remove stuffing from turkey before carving it; mix with reheated dressing if desired.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Thanksgiving Stuffing