I tend to only eat stuffing once a year. Can you guess when that is? Yup, Thanksgiving. Every year I ask myself why I only eat it once a year, and then promptly forget about making again for another 364 days. I honestly have no clue why I do this. I love stuffing. My oldest child loves stuffing. Why do I deny us the pleasure of this side dish on "regular" days?
I thought maybe it had something to do with the meals we had growing up, but looking back, I can recall us having stuffing at least once a month or so. Of course, it was always Stove Top (not that there's anything wrong with that), but even the boxed versions know what makes stuffing so great—its versatility!
Just as you can find boxed versions to pair with your different proteins, you can also customize your from-scratch stuffing! The easiest way to keep dinner interesting is to mix up your breads. Save a few slices from every loaf in a large zippered baggie in your fridge until you have enough to make a batch. I actually decided that was the way I would remember to make stuffing more often. It doesn't matter if you mix your bread, as a matter of fact I recommend it. Using more than one kind can lend interesting flavors and textures to your stuffing.
You don't have to add meat, but if you do, just go with what you're in the mood for. Bacon is always good, as is sausage, but feel free to experiment with different varieties. Sometimes I'll add nuts or dried fruits, sometimes I'll add cheese, but one of my favorite additions is fresh apples. Again, you can switch up the varietal to lend different flavors and textures to your stuffing.
In the stuffing that I made for Thanksgiving this year, I used three types of bread: Dark German Wheat, Caramel Apple, and Hawaiian—plus bacon, tarragon and fennel, and Golden Delicious apples. It was fabulous alongside the turkey and other fixings, but it would be just as nice alongside your Tuesday night pork chops!
p.s. - I know that this is technically dressing since I didn’t stuff it inside anything, but I grew up calling it stuffing and that’s just what comes out of my mouth. You can definitely stuff it inside a turkey or roll it inside of a pork loin if you want to.
Apple Bacon Stuffing (or Dressing)
yield: serves 12
16 cups (1/2-inch) bread cubes
8 ounces uncooked bacon
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, divided
1 large red onion, chopped
2 small Golden Delicious apples, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds)
3 cups turkey or chicken stock (or low sodium broth)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 cup golden raisins
ground black pepper
Lay the bread out on a baking sheet and let it sit overnight to dry out OR put it in a 300° F oven for 20 minutes to dry it out. The weight of the “stale” or dry bread should be about 1 1/4 pounds.
Chop the bacon and cook it in a 12-inch skillet until it just turns crisp. Lift the bacon out and set it on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Pour off all of the bacon grease, leaving the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan where they are (and any grease that's still sticking to the pan in a thin film is fine).
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Add 8 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and set it over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onions, apples, tarragon, thyme, and fennel seeds to the pan; season with a smattering of salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions and apples have begun to soften. Add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat.
Beat the eggs and parsley together in a very large bowl. Add the bread cubes, reserved bacon, stock mixture, golden raisins, and another good smattering of salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
Transfer to a greased 9" x 13" pan. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Cover with foil. Slide into the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes longer.
Serve alongside your favorite holiday meal or your everyday dinner. Enjoy!
Note: While this recipe makes enough to share at a family gathering, it halves easily.