The Right Stuff For Stuffing: Yeasted Cornbread makes a Special Guest Appearance For Thanksgiving
by Rob Nichols, Bread Bakery Manager
When it comes to second helpings at Thanksgiving, the stuffing, along with extra gravy, is at the top of the list. Surprising, since the ingredients are common enough: bread, onions, celery, perhaps some apples and/or sausage, seasonings and broth. What is it about this stuff? Here is my theory. Good stuffing is both savory and a little sweet; moist and succulent (from the butter or sausage or mushrooms); salty and herbaceous; chewy and soft; lean and rich all at the same time. It softens the cranberry and bolsters the turkey or tofu with some real texture and complex flavor. What an accomplishment.
A great stuffing starts with bread that has enough character to carry the burden. Fortunately we have two perfect candidates among the Weaver Street Market bread line-up: Rustic Bread and Yeasted Cornbread. Buy UNSLICED bread a few days in advance and let it dry out some; fresh bread will turn soggy and won't absorb as much flavor. If using Rustic, carve off the bottom crust and most of the thicker top and side crust. Then cut the bread into thick slices, 1-2 inches wide, brush with olive oil, or butter if you prefer, and broil it briefly on both sides to add some color and crisp. Finally, and this is the critical part, after it cools, tear the bread into irregular wads, bites, and fat crumbs. You can do all this a day ahead, and have the base for the best side dish on the table. And remember two things: 1) amounts of everything are flexible, as long as you use plenty of butter/oil, onions, celery and herbs and 2) if you're lucky enough to have any leftovers, dressing is great reheated or as the base for a casserole.
A Basic Recipe for Stuffing
To serve 8 to 12
You will need roughly 2 Big Rustics or 1 loaf of Yeasted Cornbread, prepared as described above. Use a large heavy pot, and melt 1/2 pound of butter (1 cup) or an equivalent amount of butter & olive oil. Slowly cook 3 cups chopped onion until very soft; stir often and don't rush this process. Then add 2 cups chopped celery, a full bunch of chopped flat-leaf parsley, and about a 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs, especially sage or thyme. Season generously with salt and fresh ground pepper, stir regularly, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Turn out into a large mixing bowl and add the pieces of torn bread, then mix well. Add 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable broth to moisten, using the smaller amount if you will be stuffing a bird, more if you will bake the dish separately in the oven (which you would do at 350 deg for about 45 minutes, first 3/4 covered, last uncovered).
This is the foundation, to which you probably will want to add some character-building elements that reflect your heritage or dietary preferences. These could include chopped lightly sautéed apples, dried fruit plumped in warm water (apricots, prunes, currants), toasted pecans, roasted chestnuts, cooked sausage, giblets or marinated tempeh, sautéed mushrooms, fennel, wilted fall greens, roasted corn, chili peppers, or hoisin sauce.
Yeasted Cornbread will be available late on Saturday, November 20 through November 23, while supplies last.