Stuffing is one of those things that you wish you made more than once a year, but then you get around to baking the cornbread a day early, assembling the ingredients, and baking it in the oven for an hour. You realize it’s become a lengthy task to keep you busy while the turkey is cooking. Well, thanks for that. The time we take to make stuffing these days has graduated it to my favorite Thanksgiving dish.
Prior to the 16th century in England stuffing was called farce, which came from farcir (French) meaning to stuff. Stuffing became dressing in Victorian England and emigrated over to America as such. There is no proof that the first Thanksgiving bird was stuffed, but it has been a staple of the holiday ever since.
The empty cavity of a 30 pound turkey hogging all the oven space begs to be filled with something. In the past it was quite common to use various parts of an animal as vessels for cooking. It is no surprise that the empty cavity of a bird was filled with various meats, vegetables, and starches.
In our household, stuffing used to be made in advance, jammed into the bird, and scooped out like a heaping mound of crunchy, turkey-y bread “stuff.” More recently we have made it as its own side dish, cooked separately in a roasting pan. On our modern Thanksgiving dinner table, you could say stuffing has evolved from being a practical flavor filling of the turkey centerpiece to a decorated showpiece on its own.
My mother’s stuffing has an excellent crunch on the top, decorated with sweet chestnuts, buttery onions and celery, and sprinkled with herb. Oh, and there’s cornbread. I think my work is done here.
1 9” square pan
1 teaspoon ghee (or butter), for greasing
2 cups organic whole cornmeal flour
1/2 cup spelt
1/2 cup amaranth
1 cup unbleached all-purpose organic flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 7/8 cup buttermilk
3/8 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup ghee, melted
Preheat the oven to 400. Grease the baking pan and set aside.
Whisk the cornmeal, flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, maple syrup, eggs, and melted butter. Add all at once to the dry ingredients, stirring quickly and lightly just until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven.
If you’re making it in advance of the stuffing, let the cornbread cool entirely. Cut it into squares and put them into plastic bags and keep in the freezer. Before starting the stuffing, take out the cornbread to thaw. Break it up into little squares.
Cornbread and whole wheat stuffing w/ cranberries, chestnuts, onions, and herbs
1 teaspoon ghee for greasing
6 tablespoons ghee
1 bunch of organic celery hearts, washed and coarsely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
2 cups medium yellow onions, peeled and finely diced
A few crumbled sage leaves
1 jar whole chestnuts, drained and chopped
5 cups crumbled, day-old buttermilk cornbread (above)
4 cups of torn up, slightly-dried whole wheat bread (if not, break it into chunks and dry out in the oven for 10 mins on 325)
1 cup fresh cranberries, washed, rinsed, chopped in a food processor (or dried, sweetened, cranberries, plumped and chopped)
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
3 4” sprigs rosemary, stemmed and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium organic canned chicken broth
3 large eggs, well beaten
Make sure the rack is in the lower third and set the oven to 325. Grease a 9×13 pan with ghee.
Melt the ghee (or butter) in a saute pan on medium-low heat. Once hot, add the celery and saute for 8 minutes until starting to soften. Add the onions and shallots and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the sage and saute for 20 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chestnuts and saute for a minute to warm. Remove from heat.
Put the cornbread, bread, cranberries, and sauteed ingredients in a large bowl. Lightly toss with salad servers. Add in the fresh and dried herbs and salt and pepper.
In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and chicken broth together. Pour the liquid onto the stuffing and toss again lightly. Pour into the greased pan and cook in the oven until slightly browned, about an hour.
Tip: You want the eggs to set but you don’t want to dry it out or burn the top. If it starts to brown too soon place loose tinfoil over the top.