When I asked my dad for his stuffing recipe (which I think about obsessively all year-round), he wrote back, "Not only do I not have it written out, I've never seen it written out. I make it a little differently each time—my father taught it to me, and I think it's the same stuffing everyone makes." After much needling, I got him to share the basics, which produce a phenomenal stuffing as written. But feel free to add your own twists, like he does every year. Grated Parmesan, for example, would take this over the top. (My dad's dream twist, he noted, would be the addition of fresh oysters: "Every year, I resist the temptation to add them, because your mother hates oysters in stuffing, or hot oysters in anything for that matter.")
Lastly, he noted that while you can substitute your own cornbread (left out to grow stale), he's tried it a few times, and doesn't think it's worth the trouble. "In fact," he said, "It seems like a criminal waste of fresh corn bread, which you could have eaten hot and slathered in butter." I can attest that I've eaten this same stuffing every year for decades, and have never noticed the difference. —Ella Quittner
Watch This Recipe
Josh Quittner’s Cornbread & Sausage Stuffing
4 to 6 as a side
olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
sweet Italian sausages, uncased
large yellow onion, diced
stalks celery, sliced into roughly 1/2-inch pieces
fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped roughly, your favorite type
loosely packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped
loosely packed fresh sage leaves (just a couple of leaves), finely chopped
(heaping) kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly cracked pepper, plus more to taste
(14-ounce) package cornbread stuffing
dried sour cherries
cup of nuts (I like pecans, but pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, separately or in combination, are all good)
chicken broth, plus more if needed
In This Recipe
Heat oven to 350°F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the largest skillet you can find, and brown the sausages thoroughly on all sides, breaking them up into bite-sized pieces with your cooking utensil. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, set aside and reserve the fat.
In the fat, sauté the onion until it's translucent. Throw in the celery, and sauté until it begins to soften. Add the mushrooms, and with them, toss in a tablespoon of butter to help them brown, rather than gray. Once the mushrooms are browned, add the salt, pepper, parsley, sage, and thyme, and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
In a very large mixing bowl, or a large pot that you have dragooned into service as a large mixing bowl, empty the bag of cornbread stuffing. Add the sautéed, seasoned vegetables, browned sausage, cherries, and nuts. Moisten the mixture with about a cup of chicken broth. Mix up the stuffing bare-handed, or if that doesn’t appeal, use a large spoon. The mixture should be wet enough such that you could form a snowball out of the stuffing and throw it across the work table at a child you’ve convinced to help hand-mix the stuffing—but not wet enough to leave a mark. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed; it probably needs more salt.
Pack the stuffing into a medium or large casserole dish, and bake covered (e.g., by foil) for about 40 minutes, until warmed through. Then, remove cover, and place the casserole dish under the broiler. Watching closely so it doesn’t burn, let the top of the stuffing brown before removing from the broiler to serve.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.