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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Like almost everyone else, I have cut back on my use of butter in recent years. But this classic dressing, which is based on a wonderful recipe by James Beard, is so great that I refuse to compromise when I make it. I’d rather skip dessert than miss out on this yearly treat. Check out the variations if you prefer to use olive oil.
1 Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven, or casserole. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.
2 Add the bread crumbs and the tarragon or sage and toss to mix. Turn the heat to low. Add the salt, pepper, and scallions. Toss again; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley and stir. Turn off the heat. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to a day before proceeding.)
3 Pack this into the turkey if you like, or simply put it in an ovenproof glass or enameled casserole and bake it with the turkey during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
Bread Stuffing with Giblets and Fruit: Finely chop the gizzard, heart, and liver. In Step I, add the giblets to the onion after it softens. Omit the nuts. In Step 2, add 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried), 1 finely crumbled bay leaf, 1½ cups coarsely chopped pitted prunes, and 2 cups peeled and diced tart apples. Omit the tarragon and scallions and proceed as above. (If you make this recipe you will have to make stock for gravy from just the neck and wing tips.)
Bread Stuffing with Sage and Chestnuts: Start by boiling or roasting ¾ to 1 pound chestnuts until they are tender (see Boiled, Grilled, or Roasted Chestnuts for details). Shell, skin, and chop. Cook the onions as in Step I, above. When they are soft, add the chestnuts and 1/2 cup dry white wine (omit nuts). Simmer for 5 minutes. In Step 2, use sage and just 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley; proceed as above.
Bread Stuffing with Sausage: In Step 1, omit butter. Cook 1 pound sausage meat (you can squeeze the meat from links) in its own fat over medium heat until pinkish-gray. Spoon off the fat, then add the onion and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Omit the nuts. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger), and 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional). Omit tarragon or sage; proceed with Step 2.
Bread Stuffing with Mushrooms: In Step 1, use butter or olive oil and cook 1 cup trimmed and sliced white mushrooms along with the onion. If you have them, add 1 ounce soaked, drained, trimmed, and minced porcini mushrooms at the same time. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic when the mushrooms have softened. Omit the nuts. Use sage or thyme (1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dried) and proceed with Step 2 as on page 405.
To make bread crumbs, break fairly fresh or quite stale bread into chunks, and grind in a food prossor or blender, a few chunks at a time. Toast crumbs on a baking sheet forten minutes in a 350°F oven if you like, or store untoasted and toast, if you like, before using. Store bread crumbs is a sealed plastic bag in the freezer; they will keep forever.
To reconstitute dried mushrooms Soak in hot water to cover for ten or fifteen minutes, or until soft. Change the water if they are not softening quickly enough, but reserve the soaking water for use in sauces, stocks, and stews (strain it first; it’s often sandy). Trim the hard parts from the mushrooms and use as you would fresh.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)
Nutritional information is based on 12 servings, uses 6 cups of breadcrumbs and includes 1/2 teaspoon of added salt.