We are days away from Thanksgiving here is my holiday dressing. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I’m in the Miami airport, Cleveland bound, having been a part of the amazing Miami Book Fair to promote my new collection of novellas, In Short Measures, love stories. Met some hero fiction writers, such as Elizabeth McCracken, whose “Thunderstruck” is one of the best short stories I’ve read in years. Also Mary Gaitskill, who scares the shit out of me, Rick Moody, who does not, Mary Karr, on whom I crush, and new writer friends Les Standiford, John Dufresne, and Cindi Chinelly. What a great fair, thanks to Mitchell Kaplan and Books & Books.

Reposting the following for those looking for a delicious and simple Thanksgiving dressing:

The nice thing about blogging as opposed to newspapering is that I don’t feel the obligation to always come up with a new way of roasting turkey or a new stuffing or a new cranberry sauce or a new kind of gravy. The classics are classics. So, herewith, the way I make “stuffing,” just as good as last year’s.

I stopped stuffing our Thanksgiving turkey reluctantly, as the stuffing was always my favorite part of the meal when Grandma Spamer made it. But my goal became a perfectly cooked bird, and you can’t cook a turkey perfectly if it’s stuffed. So now I make what we must refer to as dressing, no matter what Mario says (“That’s what you put on a salad.”). Dressing denotes that it’s stuffing cooked in a pan.

And it can still be the very best part of the meal! Thanks to a versatile ratio, it’s a no brainer. Dressing, and there are infinite variations, is little more than a savory bread pudding. To make a great dressing you make the liquid a custard, the ratio for which is 2 parts liquid and 1 part egg, here 24 ounces stock (flavor!) and 12 ounces (6) eggs. The rest is the flavoring.

Here I use leeks and sage, and nothing more. Simple. But feel free to improvise: add sautéed mushrooms, celery (sweated with the leeks); replace the leeks with onion, or fennel; add chestnuts. Or swap in a cup of white wine for the stock. There’s no limit to what you can do with a dressing like this, provided you use a good, flavorful custard.

A secret I don’t usually mention: during the cooking and before serving, I spoon some sizzling hot turkey fat over it to make sure it’s truly succulent and tastes like my dear Grandma Spamer’s.

Holiday Dressing

Ratio: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 fat leeks, thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed of all dirt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups turkey stock
  • 8 cups cubed white bread (1 large loaf sourdough or country  bread)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F/190°C.
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt the butter, then sweat the leeks and add the minced sage and thyme. Season with 2 four-finger pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Combine the eggs and the turkey stock and whisk or blend to combine.
  4. Combine the sautéed leeks, bread, custard (eggs and turkey stock), and parsley. Toss and set aside for 10 or 15 minutes, pressing down on the bread so that it absorbs the custard.
  5. Butter a baking dish or a cast iron skillet, and pour in the stuffing. Dot the top of the stuffing with extra butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes; uncover and bake until golden, 15 to 30 more minutes.



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© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.