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: before serving, I spoon some sizzling hot turkey fat over the dressing to make sure it's truly succulent and tastes like my dear Grandma Spamer's.
Other links you may like:
- My recent holiday post on Butternut Squash Soup and the Roast & Braise Turkey technique.
- Need more ideas for your Thanksgiving feast? Take a look at Martha Stewart.
- Here are some more stuffing ideas from Food Network.
- Find local heritage turkeys on Local Harvest.
© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.
- ½ 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)
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 300°F/190°C.
- 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.
- Combine the eggs and the turkey stock and whisk or blend to combine.
- 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.
- 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.