For New Englanders, reaching in the cupboard for Bell’s Seasoning, in the bright yellow box with the blue turkey on the front, is synonymous with making stuffing. This natural, salt-free spice mixture was created by William G. Bell of Newton, Massachusetts, in 1867. It’s an aromatic and herbaceous blend of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper. I order Bell’s online directly from the manufacturer at www.bradyenterprises.com.
If you have room in your oven, bake the stuffing while the turkey is roasting. Otherwise bake it beforehand and reheat it once the turkey is out.
Yield: Serves 12
5 teaspoons unsalted butter at room temperature
9 cups unseasoned dried bread cubes (see Notes)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large ribs celery, chopped
¾ cup fresh cranberries, picked over and stems removed
½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon bell's seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups homemade chicken stock (see Notes) or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a deep, 9-by-13-inch baking pan with 1 table spoon of the butter.
Place the bread cubes in a very large bowl, in a 10-inch sauté pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, carrots, and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and lightly browned. Add the onion mixture along with the cranberries to the bowl with the bread cubes and stir to combine Using a rubber spatula, mix in the parsley, Bell’s seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add the eggs and stock to the bowl and mix well. Scrape the stuffing into the prepared pan and bake, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is lightly browned and crusty.
The bread cubes can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. The onions, celery, and carrots can be sautéed up to 1 day in advance. Let the mixture cool, place it in a covered container, and refrigerate. Remove the vegetables from the refrigerator 2 hours before assembling the stuffing.
Not all bread cubes are created equal I like to make my own for stuffing-it’s simple and can be done ahead-using good artisan bread. I cut the bread into ½-inch cubes, which I prefer to the typically smaller store-hought cubes. (See the following Gook’s Note for baking instructions.) Dried bread cubes purchased from artisanal bakery are my next choice, and commercially prepared bread cubes are an acceptable third option. If you purchase the latter, look for unseasoned bread cubes and packages that haven’t been crushed, or you will have lots of bread crumbs instead.
Chicken Stock and Broth:
I’m one of those cooks who always has homemade chicken stock in the freezer. It’s a habit: Every time I roast a whole chicken, I make a small batch of stock by tossing the neck, giblets, and wing tips into a saucepan with a bit of chopped yellow onion, celery, and carrot; a small bay leaf; a few black peppercorns; and cold water to cover. I simmer it for an hour, strain it, let it cool, skim off the fat—and I have stock. It’s easy and never feels like a chore—at least to me. Canned broth is a good substitute. Look for a brand that is low in salt; I prefer Swanson’s low-sodium, fat-free organic broth.