Turkey may be the hero of Thanksgiving, but stuffing is the lovable sidekick. Although the word “stuffing” was replaced in the late 19th century with the word “dressing,” we still use both words interchangeably today. No matter what you call it, you can bet it will be on your dinner table this holiday season.
Stuffing had humble, utilitarian beginnings: it was designed to keep your bird from drying out as it cooked. A pleasant bonus was that it resulted in a tasty side dish flavored with the natural cooking juices from the bird. And while stuffing still can serve that purpose, it’s no longer necessary. In fact, starting in the 70’s, Stove Top Stuffing made it possible to enjoy the great taste of stuffing with any meal, any time of the year.
There are several prominent stuffing styles, largely dependent on region and traditions. A few notable styles are:
Traditional – This would consist of stale, dried or toasted white bread, turkey broth, sage, thyme and other spices. Onion and celery are added, usually with cooked giblets. Butter and sometimes egg, cream or a little flour top it off.
Oyster Stuffing – Gaining popularity in the 19th century, this stuffing is generally not seasoned as highly as traditional stuffing. True gourmands would never use sage and thyme… but I would. In fact, you could even update this recipe with smoked andouille sausage, rice, garlic, celery, onion, green pepper, white, black, and cayenne pepper.
Chestnut Stuffing – The base of this stuffing comes from boiled, shelled and mashed chestnuts, often times seasoned minimally with salt and pepper. Additions to this base include breadcrumbs, butter, stock and/or cream. You can add mushrooms, celery, garlic, onion, and an egg for a rich and earthy flavor.
Cornbread and Sausage – This one is popular in the southern United States. Starting with cornbread (not too sweet), add a little broth, butter, sage, thyme, onion, celery, garlic and cooked and crumbled sage-style sausage (or what you may think of as breakfast sausage). Some southern cooks like to add cream of mushroom soup as well as eggs and a little white bread.
While these are some tried-and-true stuffing varieties, don’t be afraid to experiment with unique ingredients. Shrimp, Italian sausage, crayfish, apples, dried fruits, sautéed fresh fennel, ground dried fennel, Cajun seasoning, wild rice and pecans all would give a unique spin on any stuffing recipe.
The Zombie Connection
As you may know, we always enjoy putting a fresh twist on classic dishes. Lately, I’ve been fooling with the idea of forming stuffing into a loaf and slicing it like bread. Last year, we gave it a shot and I’m happy to report that our “stuffing bun” is making another appearance this year at Zombie Burger! Chef Tom is bringing sexy back with the new, improved THANKSKILLING BURGER – complete with house-smoked turkey breast, ham, mashed potato croquette, turkey gravy and fried onion rings, all on a stuffing bun. It’s only available through Nov. 21, though, so hurry up!