Baking stuffing on a sheet pan ensures a high ratio of crispy edges to custardy center. If you like a more traditional pan, use whatever you have -- this recipe will yield enough for several vessels: two 9 x 13-inch casseroles, a casserole pan and a small sheet pan, a large sheet pan and a small casserole dish, etc.
Also, feel free to tailor the add-ins to your liking. I like a small amount of bacon, pancetta, or sausage. Celery and onion (or leeks) and sage are a must for me. I like to remove the crusts from the bread and dry out the cubes in the oven versus letting them stale on their own. A small amount of wine or Cognac adds a bit of flavor but isn't necessary. A flavorful stock and a lot of it will ensure the stuffing stays creamy in the center as it crisps on the edges. Baking the stuffing covered with foil for the first 30 minutes moreover helps ensure the center of the stuffing will not dry out.
To separate the brussels sprout leaves: Make a cut above the stem a little bit higher than you would normally. Then, using a paring knife, core each sprout. Then, peel away the leaves. When you reach the heart of the sprout, it will be really hard to peel anymore leaves. Stop peeling and either thinly slice the hearts or save them for a future roasting recipe. —Alexandra Stafford
- Serves 15 to 20
large loaves of bread (about 2 3/4 pounds before crusts are removed / 2 pounds once crust is removed)
small bunch sage
brussels sprouts, stemmed, cored, and leaves separated (see notes above)
Cognac, white wine, or sherry
3 to 4 cups
chicken or turkey stock
Freshly cracked pepper
- Preheat the oven to 275º F. Remove the crusts of the bread. (Discard or save the crusts for breadcrumbs.) Tear or slice the bread into cubes or shards about 1-inch square. Spread bread onto two sheet pans. Place pans in the oven for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Set pans aside to cool. Once bread is completely cool, transfer it to one very large mixing bowl or to two large mixing bowls.
- Meanwhile, place pancetta in a large sauté pan over medium to medium-low heat. Cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp -- adjust the heat as necessary to avoid burning. Transfer pancetta to a plate.
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Add 4 tablespoons butter to the pan along with the diced onions and celery. Cook over medium heat with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced sage and the brussels sprout leaves, toss to coat, then transfer contents of the pan to the bowl of dried bread.
- Add Cognac or wine to pan and cook until it has nearly reduced, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, then scrape the contents into the bowl of bread. Add crispy pancetta bits to bowl, too.
- Add two cups of stock, a big pinch of salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste to the bowl of bread. Toss to coat. Taste. Add more salt if necessary -- this is your last chance to ensure the stuffing is sufficiently seasoned before the eggs are added. Whisk eggs with one cup of the remaining stock. Pour into the bowl of bread and toss to coat. Each cube of bread should feel saturated with liquid. There shouldn't be any liquid sitting in the bottom of the bowl, however, but if there is, toss the bread again and let it sit for 5 minutes. If the bread seems dry, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time.
- Choose your vessels (see notes above) and grease each lightly with butter. Transfer bread to vessels and cover each with foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 350º F covered with foil. Raise the temperature to 425º F and bake for 10 to 20 minutes longer depending on your oven. If the stuffing isn't browning, you can turn the temperature up to 450º F, just be sure to keep an eye on it -- it will burn quickly. Let rest five minutes before serving.