Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
Actually, it is the only holiday I like. Living in the UK for the past six years has made me realize how much I enjoy it. Brian and I have hosted an annual festival of gluttony for our friends in the UK seven times and each year I feel even more certain that any holiday whose centerpiece is food is a holiday worth celebrating. I love that there are no presents to buy and no religious overtones; thanksgiving is all about food, friends, family and taking a moment to reflect back over the year to think about what it is you have to be thankful for.
I have many vivid childhood memories of thanksgivings (especially of the Sicilian men passing out after dinner) and I’m hopeful that Manny, our friend’s Wes and Rachel’s son, will have a few good recollections of eating turkey at our house every year. I’ve missed being able to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade – even though it is a ridiculous commercial enterprise – but the ritual of cooking all day and then feeding as many people as you can fit in your house, has travelled with us to the grey, rainy shores of northern England. We’ve created our own traditions here in the UK; Brian hosts an annual thanksgiving quiz, which features ridiculous trivia about American history and thanksgiving ephemera. After seven years, he’s starting to recycle…there is only so much you can know about turkeys!
When I stop to think about all the things I have to be thankful for, the first thing that comes to mind is my family. As much as I have spent a lot of my early adult life trying to unravel the psychology of my childhood, I am totally grateful to have the family I have. My mother, father and sisters are some of the smartest and most interesting people I know. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m also incredibly grateful for my husband, Brian, who puts up with all of my craziness and who reminds me daily of what it means to completely trust someone. My friends from both sides of the pond have put up with my shenanigans for years and there have been many moments (especially recently) where I don’t know what I would have done without their love and support. I’m also grateful for the luck I’ve had in my career(s) and am hopeful for what the future might hold.
Okay. Enough soppy bullshit. Time for my favorite stuffing recipe. Hope you like!
- 1 1/2 lbs sausage meat. Any kind will do. I generally use something that has a bit of spice in it, but you can get plain meat and add your own.
- 1/4 cup diced pancetta or bacon (chopped).
- 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces (not any smaller).
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped.
- 3 medium-large yellow onions, diced.
- A large handful of fresh sage leaves (about 10-15 leaves), roughly chopped.
- 8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
- 1 loaf of sourdough bread (the one I use is 500grams), cubed into 1/2 inch-1 inch pieces, with most of the crust removed.
- 2 cups cornbread (or if you don’t like cornbread or don’t have it, you can use rough bread crumbs).
- 1 cup pecan halves (or your other favorite nuts) broken into pieces.
- 1/4 cup sherry (or white wine, but sherry is much nicer. Come to think of it, you could use Marsala if you have that hanging around).
- Salt and pepper.
- Stock (I use fresh chicken stock).
- 2 eggs.
Steps to Joy:
- Put a few tablespoons of butter into a large saute pan (I never said this was healthy!) over medium heat. When the butter has melted, dump in your pancetta or bacon. Saute until the fat of the pancetta/bacon is translucent. Don’t let it get crispy (you have the heat too high if it crisps quickly).
- Add in the onion, celery, sage, apples and garlic. Saute until everything is a bit soft and smells lovely.
- Pour in the sherry (or other alcohol) and let the alcohol burn off a bit. It should smell a bit fruity.
- Add in the sausage meat and stir until the meat is fully cooked.
- Crumble in the cornbread (or breadcrumbs) and allow it to soak up all the liquid in the pan. Stir thoroughly and remove from the heat. Dump it into a giant bowl.
- Add the pecans (or other nuts) to the mix. You can also add dried fruits if you like. Dried apricots/figs go really well with this in my opinion.
- Mix the sourdough cubes into the meat/veg/cornbread mixture. Stir thoroughly.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add these to the stuffing and stir thoroughly (I use my hands if it isn’t too hot).
- Add in enough stock to make everything combine well. It should be a bit on the soggy side but not totally soppy.
- You then have two choices for cooking this… you can stuff it into a bird (which is what I do) and cook it until the middle of the stuffing is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively (or if you have too much for your bird, as I usually do), you can put the stuffing into a casserole dish and cook it in the oven on 450 F for about 45 minutes. I usually cover it for the first 30 and then leave it uncovered for the last 15. You may need to add a bit extra stock to the stuffing if you do it in a casserole dish to avoid it getting too dry.
If I remember to, I’ll post a photo of our stuffing after I make some next. It is some tasty business in my opinion.