Friday, November 2, 2007

THANKSGIVING TIPS - How Many Ways Can You Stuff A Turkey?

More than you think…

I know a lot of folks don’t stuff their turkeys anymore. I am not in that group, because there’s nothing that gives the stuffing more flavor than being cooked inside the bird. And I just won’t give that up. Of course, I always have more than fits in the turkey, so I do cook the rest separately in a foil packet for 40 minutes. (BTW, if you brine your turkey, you can't stuff it.)

You non-stuffers can go make your pie crusts now, my like-minded friends and I have some stuff (get it?) to talk about.

Stuffing and the turkey really have a symbiotic relationship. Each benefits from the other. So let’s figure out how many places you can stuff a turkey. No, I don’t mean the kitchen, the dining room or the back porch. I mean IN a turkey…how many places can you stuff? I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala OK?

Number One - The Big Body Cavity

Number Two - The OTHER Hole, yup, the one at the underneath end. You can get over a cup of stuffing in there. Frankly, I have a bit of a hard time knowing which is the neck hole and which is the…well, it doesn’t really matter. Just know that there are two - one big and one small. Stuff them both and sew them up.

And The Number Three place to stuff a turkey is…

Under the skin. Yup, that’s right. And it’s really smart for a number of reasons. Stuffing under the breast skin keeps the breast moister. Plus, it gives you yet one more place to add additional flavor to the stuffing. AND it makes the presentation attractive and the carving easier.

You GENTLY loosen the skin all along the breast and carefully spoon in the stuffing in a single thin layer. Go back as far as you can. Smooth the outside a bit to keep the original shape and cook as normal.

To serve, slice each entire half breast off the bird. Then slice it in slightly thickish slices CROSSWISE, each piece retaining some stuffing under the skin. You don’t hack away at the breast this way, and each breast slice has a yummy addition.

By the way, even if stuffing a turkey is against your religion, you can place orange slices between the skin and the breast meat. It’s attractive and helps to keep the breast meat moist.

One other thing - ONLY if you are Southern debutante may you call STUFFING…DRESSING. (M, are you reading this?)

Without further ado, here is THE BEST STUFFING RECIPE IN THE WORLD. It started out as my mother's, and over the years, I've added to it (never subtracted, though) to come up with this.

My Version of My Mother’s Turkey Stuffing
(for 10 lb. Turkey)
Printable recipe here
Obviously, for most turkeys you'll double this. It makes plenty.

3 quarts (12 cups) ½ inch bread cubes or cornbread*
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried marjoram (or oregano, they're cousins)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 egg, beaten
Stock, milk or orange juice
1 cup dried apricots, chopped and soaked in 3 tbls. Grand Marnier

zest of 1 big orange

Cut up bread the night before and place in plastic bags, loosely closed. Leave out. You may also chop the celery and onion and refrigerate, and measure out the herbs and wrap airtight.

Shortly before stuffing the turkey, melt butter in heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion. Cover, and turn heat to low. Cook until COMPLETELY softened, at least 15 minutes or up to 25. (You can’t overcook them). Set aside to cool a bit.

Place bread in LARGE mixing bowl. Add herbs and seasonings. Make sure you rub the herbs into the palm of your hand to release the flavor as you add them. Add apricots and their soaking liquid and the orange rind. Stir in softened celery and onion. Taste for seasoning now, before you add the raw egg. Mix egg with a bit of broth or whatever liquid you're using. (I use orange juice and some stock). Add additional liquid to make a moist, but not soggy stuffing.

Stuff bird. Place heel of bread over cavity and sew shut.

Place extra stuffing in foil packet or a buttered soufflé dish. Refrigerate stuffing until ready to bake. Add a bit of additional liquid. Cook for 40 minutes at whatever temperature you’re cooking anything else, 325°F up to 375°F.

The stuffing inside the turkey should measure 165°F. (New guidelines for the turkey itself say the meat also should register 165°F in all parts of the turkey, not the former 180°F. Butterball continues to say 180°F for the dark meat. I'm not taking sides.)

* NOTE: Use white bread or whole wheat or both (I cut the crusts off) or cornbread. I use the recipe on the back of the yellow package of cornmeal.


Bake your cake and eat it too said...

You have saved me SO much work! I've been looking for a simple yet delcious stuffing without millions of additions! You ROCK!!!! I'm gonna use this for thanksgiving. Thank you!

Sue said...

Hi Val,
You won't be disappointed, just make sure you really SOFTEN those onions and celery.

Mademoiselle Emilie Eats said...

I'm going to TRY and make this stuffing for Thanksgiving. My mom takes over the cooking and won't let me do anything. She thinks I'm going to make everything not traditional.
So you prefer cornbread over bread? I think my mom uses the dried bread cubes in a bag. Is that bad?
I LOVE sage in stuffing. We have a lot in our garden. Need to dry it, soon.

Vanda said...

Surprised that there is no BOOZE in your recipe!!!

Sue said...

Mlle. Emilie,
You young people! Why don't you try TALKING to your mother.

Say "Mom, I would really like to take some of the burden off you this year. May I contribute the stuffing, please? I think you will find it quite enjoyable (and it'll be A LOT better than the sludge you make every year)."

Okay, maybe leave that last part out, but, Em, old people just like to be communicated with as if they were REAL people and not just your parents. And could it be that your mother is depending on you for 15 magnificent desserts and doesn't want to overwhelm you?

Or you could tell her you're going to make it anyway and have people vote on which one is better. I don't have to tell you which one would win (although, I'm sure Mom's is great). Hi Mom!

Booze in stuffing? Never! Before during and after you've stuffed it, but never IN.

Sheila said...

I'm making YOUR stuffing this year! (I'm soaking the dried apricots in some cognac - what do you think - ok??)

I can't wait to taste it - I'll make sure to give you all the credit at the table! Happy Thanksgiving Sue! Thanks for everything this past year!