Stuffing has a very long history, going back as far as the ancient Roman period. An old Roman cookbook that was discovered contains recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig and dormouse. Most of the recipes consisted of a selection of the following ingredients: vegetables, herbs, spices, nut, spelt (a grain), liver, brains, and various other organ meats. Sounds appetizing, doesn't it? You will be relieved to know that my favorite stuffing recipe was adapted from one that was written over 2000 years later, so you will not be forced to aimlessly wander the aisles of your grocery store looking for spelt and brains. Everyone seems to like this stuffing--even someone who claimed to hate celery and leeks, but after I "forgot" to mention that they were in the stuffing, he ate two helpings (you know who you are!). Incidentally, I just got up to take this stuffing out of the oven and it smells amazing. My husband is going to be very happy with his dinner tonight. I love this recipe because it is incredibly flavorful (many stuffings can be bland), pretty easy to make, and you can do most of it one day ahead of time. It also tastes great as a leftover. A few notes regarding the recipe:
- The stuffing can be prepared one day in advance up to the point just prior to adding the eggs. Cover it and refrigerate.
- Leeks are the vegetables that resemble very large scallions. It is very important to make sure that they are thoroughly washed before using as the layers can have dirt in between them. Cut the leek lengthwise in half and then run under cold water, separating the layer to wash.
- When slicing the leeks for this recipe, use the white and pale green parts only.
- The parsley that I always use for cooking is the Italian or flat-leaf parsley and not the curly parsley that you typically see used as a garnish. The Italian parsley has better flavor and texture.
- For the turkey sausage, you can buy either the sweet or the hot kind, depending on personal preference. You can use pork sausage, but I find that turkey sausage has all of the flavor of pork sausage, but it produces less grease and has significantly fewer calories and fat.
- This is a very forgiving recipe for substitutions and additions. For the white bread, you might want to substitute whole grain, sourdough or ciabatta. In place of the dried cranberries, you could try cherries and/or golden raisins (I like the color that the cranberries add though). You can play around with the seasonings by adding some fresh sage or thyme. I have also added some chopped and toasted pecans in the past for some extra crunch.
Apple, Turkey Sausage, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing
14 ounces white bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (about 10-12 cups)
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
4 tablespoons butter
6 cups sliced leeks (about 3 large leeks)
1 pound tart green apples, cored and chopped
2 cups chopped celery with leaves
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Scatter the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Saute the sausages in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until they are cooked through and breaking up with a spatula or a fork as they cook, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl. Pour off any drippings from the skillet. Melt the butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, apples, celery, and poultry seasoning to the skillet. Saute until the leeks soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in the dried cranberries and rosemary. Add this mixture to the sausage, and then mix in the bread and parsley. Season the stuffing to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the eggs into the stuffing.
To bake the stuffing in a turkey: Fill the main turkey cavity with stuffing. Mix enough chicken broth into the remaining stuffing to moisten it (approximately 3/4 cup broth, depending on the amount of remaining stuffing). Spoon the remaining stuffing into a buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered aluminum foil. Bake the stuffing in a dish alongside the turkey until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover the stuffing and bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
To bake all of the stuffing in a pan: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter a 15X10X2 inch baking dish. Mix 1 1/3 cups broth into the stuffing. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.