When it comes to signature Thanksgiving dishes, stuffing is probably second only to turkey as the most common dish on the dining table. Whether you call it stuffing or dressing or whether you cook the dish inside the turkey or in its own separate pot, it’s usually a matter of personal family tradition – it’s a collective tradition that’s part of the holiday. for hundreds of years.
“The close association between the American Thanksgiving holiday and roast turkey and stuffing is generally recognized as an early 19th century phenomenon,” said Paula J. Johnson, curator of food history at the National Museum. of American History from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
The concept of stuffing and cooking an animal with other meats, breads, or vegetables has been part of culinary history since at least Roman times. However, as Johnson explained, it was women’s magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale who was “key to bringing together and popularizing the Thanksgiving holiday with the menu including turkey and stuffing.”
Hale began campaigning to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1827, Johnson noted, and “influenced and shaped ideas about the components and ingredients of a true Thanksgiving event” through his vivid descriptions of what we now consider the traditional meal in his novel “Northwood: A New England Tale.” In the 1840s, Johnson said, “the menu of ‘turkey, stuffing, squash, and pie'” was the norm. ”
While Hale’s vision of an ideal Thanksgiving dinner included stuffing cooked inside the bird, many cooks now choose to cook it alone. (If you opt for the turkey method, USDA food safety guidelines call for an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any potentially harmful bacteria that could pass from the meat to the stuffing.) I prefer to cook my stuffing in the outside of the bird, and even cooking it ahead of time to knock one more thing off my Thanksgiving Day list. It has plenty of time to warm up in the oven while the turkey rests.
However you cook it and whatever you call it, I’d say stuffing should be the centerpiece of modern Thanksgiving – and I say that as someone who also loves macaroni and cheese and brisket as a Thanksgiving main course.
It can be modified and adjusted to fit almost any dietary preference or restriction; it has so many ways to be flavorfully distinct that you could even have three dishes of stuffing at the table and no one would complain about pan overload.
The stuffing can be vegetarian, completely vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and even a main dish on its own. It can satisfy the most basic cravings with a base of chicken broth and butter, it can be seasoned with dried or fresh fruit, spiced with everything from hot sausages to hatch peppers, and even sprinkled with seafood.
A traditional bread and herb stuffing is a fan favorite for many reasons. It’s tasty, simple, (mostly) harmless even to picky palates – and, frankly, it’s my favorite version because it’s the one I grew up eating. However, this is not the only way to prank.
Consider this basic stuffing recipe a starting point for bringing more energy to the main course (especially if you’re planning a non-turkey or plant-based Thanksgiving this year). With a crusty bread base and a classic aromatic blend of onion, celery and herbs, the flavor profile of this stuffing can be pulled in many directions.
Add more ingredients – something green, something more aromatic, and something meaty and salty – to make this a more substantial casserole. Kale, leeks and bacon are a hearty combination, but this trio is open to interpretation. Try spinach, shallots and diced ham, or a combination of chard, fennel and chorizo.
Oyster stuffing is one of the most popular variations on this theme. While the idea of including oysters may turn some stomachs, soft shellfish add a more flavorful salty element to the dish.
You can also replace crispy white bread with other breads to change the taste and texture of your stuffing. Rye or pumpernickel, whole wheat, sourdough, herbed focaccia or the almost traditional cornbread cubes all add their own flavor. Want to get really experimental? Leave the breads on the shelf and grab bagels of everything.
The quickest and easiest way to turn a classic bread stuffing into a vegetarian dish is to replace the chicken or turkey broth typically called for in recipes with a vegetable broth. For other vegetarian supplements, the world is yours. Or rather, your oyster mushroom or shiitake or mixed wild mushrooms, which add umami flavor instead of meat.
Instead of meat ingredients, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits can also add flavor and texture interest. Chestnut stuffing was once as popular as oyster stuffing, as the meaty yet tender nuts give the dish a subtly earthy and sweet undertone. No need to roast and peel individual chestnuts when jarred chestnuts are readily available.
Pecans or toasted walnuts also add a toasty element to the stuffing or, for guests with a nut allergy, substitute toasted nuggets, sunflower seeds or pine nuts, which are not, in fact, nuts but seeds.
Instead of butter, vegan substitutes or olive oil can be used interchangeably. Egg is traditionally used in stuffing to bind ingredients together and add moisture to the whole pan, but it’s easy to substitute or omit.
A porridge of flax seeds and water can replace eggs in most baked recipes: Use 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds soaked in 3 tablespoons water for 5 minutes. Add additional broth for moisture. (If you leave the egg all the way out, your stuffing might be a little looser and crumblier in texture.)
With a number of gluten-free bread recipes and pre-baked breads on the market that are virtually indistinguishable from gluten-free wholemeal bread, switching up your favorite stuffing recipe isn’t a big deal.
Cornbread can be a naturally gluten-free choice for stuffing, whether by substituting a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix for the flour called for in your regular recipe or by making a specifically developed recipe.
Wild rice has traditionally been a base for stuffing (or dressing, as it’s popularly called in the region) in Minnesota and the high plains for generations. Manoomin, as it is called in the language of the Ojibwe tribe, is a biologically aquatic grass seed that is naturally gluten-free and high in protein. Using this nutty grain instead of bread cubes allows for a “wildly” different stuffing experience.