all dressed up – thanksgiving edition

I‘m married, so I get my thrill for variety sated in food options. I’ll never abandon the traditional stuffing of my youth: apple, sausage, celery, sage and walnuts. Sometimes golden raisins will plump up in wine or stock, that, or the nut might change to a pine nut—crazy, I know. But that’s never enough. Not when I know there are so many other ways to go! If I had to commit, that would be marriage, with the addition of mushrooms, too. But, since the turkey hasn’t put a ring on my finger, I’ll be three-timing this year.

People ask me if having twins is hard. “I have nothing to compare it to,” is my bullshit answer. The truth is, I’ve always loved having twins, figuring that if I was going to lose sleep and be elbows deep in diapers and ‘rhea, I might as well suffer all at once. Why on earth would I voluntarily choose to prolong any of that? For the joy of a cooing baby? I don’t like babies. There it is. My own babies, nah, not really. I’m just not a lover of babies! They do nothing for me. I much prefer puppies. I never stop and stare at babies or want to hold one. I’d rather chat with a temper-prone three-year-old. What does this have to do with stuffing a bird?

If you’re up to your elbows in chopping onions and celery and peeling apples and coring them, you might as well go at it in bulk, all at once, just as you do with twins. Double the work, but all at once. You’re doing it anyway, so it’s really no big bother to just alter the type of bread, and alternate the sage for the thyme. The bulk of the recipes are pretty much the same, see?

1 month in advance, actually. Whisk the egg and broth together, the final step before cooking, but then instead of cooking, freeze. Then, when you’re ready to make it, bring it back to room temperature, and follow directions to preheat your oven, butter your baking dish, transfer to that dish, and bake it, basting with turkey drippings halfway through if desired. WHY would anyone leave all this work to do at the last minute when you can be so ready ahead of schedule?

Stuffing Ingredients
I’ve bought the currants, and it will be a game-time decision, if I forge ahead with them, or if I go for the golden raisins. Today, I purchased all my ingredients, cubed the organic sourdough boule from Whole Foods and have it sitting out for the next two days on baking sheets. Workhorse Phil volunteered to chop all the onions, my least favorite part. I love him for this, the man who also always was first to pick up the baby with the poopy diaper. I’ve got LOVE ACTUALLY on here in the kitchen as I chop all the celery.

crawfish cornbread stuffing
Although this is such a Louisiana style stuffing, to me it screams Austin, TX. We shipped in pecan-smoked Andouille sausage from Texas, and with some creole seasoning, a little green pepper, some cayenne and those crawfish, it should be interesting. I’m debating on weather or not to add toasted pecans. I’m not a fan of pecans, in general. I find them too soft for my liking, but we’ll see.

Mushroom Challah Stuffing
I picked up cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms today, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Though sage likely won’t make it into this recipe, only because I want the sage to differentiate the New England recipe above. I’ve cubed my challah, and the celery, like I said, is being chopped anyway, onions done. This is a vegetarian option, so I’m using vegetable broth in lieu of chicken or turkey stock. If I was a total nut, I would use leeks instead of onions to also differentiate from the other stuffings. Mushrooms pair beautifully with parsley, shallots, fresh thyme, and even a hint of sherry. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, work well with rosemary and sage.

Do-ahead Thanksgiving Stuffing - Freeze flat to save room!
I love how regional stuffing and dressing are, and I love to hear what people put in theirs.
Please share in my obsession and tell me, where are you from, and what’s in yours?!

* * *

1 ½ lb. loaf sourdough, cut into ½ inch cubes (~13 cups)
2 lbs bulk pork breakfast sausage
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 generous cups)
2 cups chopped celery (about 5 stalks)
4 tablespoons ( ½ stick) butter, divided
6 cups ½ -inch cubes peeled Granny Smith apples (about 28 ounces)
3/4 cup golden raisins (about 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 large eggs

  • Position rack center oven, preheat 350°F. Spread bread cubes in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer bread to very large bowl.
  • Sauté sausage in large skillet, medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking into small pieces with back of fork, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl with bread cubes.
  • Add onions and celery to drippings in skillet; sauté until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl with bread-sausage mixture (do not clean skillet).
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add to bowl with bread mixture; mix in raisins.
  • Melt remaining 2 tbl. butter in same skillet over low heat. Add 2 tbl. sage; stir 30 seconds. Add sage butter to bowl with bread-sausage mixture; toss to blend. Season stuffing with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Whisk broth and eggs in medium bowl; add to stuffing and toss to mix.


  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
  • Generously butter 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  • Bake stuffing uncovered until top is golden and crisp in spots, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes and serve. Baste with turkey drippings halfway through if desired.

Make 2 boxes of jiffy cornbread (8 cups crumbled cornbread), following directions on box
½ lb Andouille sausage, finely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter
1 c chopped onion
½ c chopped green pepper
1 c chopped celery
Pinch cayenne
2 Tbl finely chopped fresh sage
½ lb cooked shelled crawfish tails
1- 1½ cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper + Creole Seasoning

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until the fat is rendered, Drain.
  • Add butter, then onion, celery, pepper, cayenne, and sage. Cook 5 min, until onion is translucent and veggies are softened.
  • Add crawfish and 1 cup broth. Season. The mixture should be highly seasoned. I used salt, pepper, cayenne and also creole seasoning.
  • Crumble cornbread into large bowl and pour mixture over it.
  • Add egg, stirring to blend. The stuffing should be slightly moist but now wet; add more broth if it seems too dry. Stir in parsley, then transfer to prepared dish (see below) or, if freezing, transfer to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container, marking the bag with the following instructions.


  • Preheat oven 350°F. Coat 13×9 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • Bake the stuffing until the top is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let rest 5-10 min before serving.

1 ½ loaves of challah
2 cups celery, diced
2 cups onion, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced or quartered (use a variety: shitake, cremini, porcini, oyster, button, baby bella)
1 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
10-12 sprigs thyme, chop leaves only
4-5 sprigs rosemary, chop needles only
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 ¾ sticks of butter
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

  • Cut or hand tear challah into 1″ pieces or cubes. Leave the cubes out on a baking sheet to get stale for 2 days OR Position rack center oven, preheat 350°F. Spread bread cubes in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Melt 6 Tbls. butter in a large heavy sauté pan. Sauté the onions until translucent, add herbs, celery and mushrooms, cooking until slightly cooked through.
  • In a large bowl, combine bread and veggies, adding pine nuts and raisins if using.
  • Add 8 Tbl. melted butter and vegetable stock, then adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  • Press room-temperature stuffing into a large buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered parchment, and then foil.
  • Bake at 350°F for 45-55 minutes, the last 10-15 minutes uncovered to crisp the top.
Thanksgiving Stuffing


  1. Please tell me I am not alone in a pet peeve. So you ask a friend of yours what is on their Thanksgiving menu and they say “Oh, the usual. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes.” I always want to follow up with, “but what kind?!”

    I digress. I make two dressings a year, one that is traditional and one experimental. The traditional is a mixture of hot Italian and sage sausage tossed with cubed French and corn bread, onions, celery, garlic, a bit more sage, and stock just to moisten. This is the dressing I grew up on, the one I always associate with Thanksgiving. As recipes do, they change from person to person, and my secret is to use about twice the onions that are called for but cook them down, nice and caramelized, almost like a French onion soup. Then, when I toss everything together, I add just a bit (1/4 cup, max) of raw red onion. I got this technique from Smitten Kitchen’s French Onion soup recipe and found it translated to dressing well.

    Thanks so much for this post. I am excited to read the responses!

    1. Author

      I’ve seen recipes for stuffing made of Naan and Indian spices. I’ve seen the movie about the four different Thanksgivings (don’t want to give away the link between the different feasts, but the film is interesting). Another stuffing made of oranges; bay leaves; paprika; potatoes; Italian sausages; nutmeg. parsley.

      Mason-Dixon Cornbread Stuffing: butter; smoked ham; celery; celery leaves; scallions; cornbread; pecans; poultry seasoning; turkey stock
      Farro Orange & Pine Nut Stuffing: shallots; celery; parsley; sage; fennel seeds; dried chiles; farro; turkey stock; dry white wine; oranges; pine nuts
      Dirty Giblet & Rice Stuffing: onions; celery; celery leaves; green bell peppers; chicken livers; andouille sausage; Cajun seasoning; long grain rice; turkey stock

  2. Dear Stephanie,
    I kid you not I was thinking about your cranberry relish. I was glad to see that you had all your pictures and recipes posted, it made me happy. I am glad things are going OK for you, and don’t feel bad about wearing a 10, when you are 57 like I am you will look back and think, “darn, I looked great”, and even if you start wearing a 12 or 14 at 57 you will still be tiny compared to the average person (not that you would even consider being average). I didn’t mean that hateful.
    I hope everything is going better for you every day. Let us hope that 2014 is a fantastic year (I am looking past the holidays). Take care and all that and you don’t have to publish this.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Carol
    Oh and I guess I am supposed to say where I am from and what I make. I am originally from the Detroit suburbs. We live in Indiana now. My mother loved oyster dressing, and it was great when she made it back in the day. However, I make sage dressing and it comes out wonderfully. I know people might think it is boring. The max I have cooked for was 17 – ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, real corn, real beans (from the farm), your cranberry relish, rolls, sweet potato casserole. I also make coconut cream pie, pecan pie and pumpkin pie, and most years also make a chocolate cake for my youngest son. I am not sure how far into pie land I am going this year, but I do everything from scratch and for real (sugar, butter, milk). I appreciate the fact that you know how to cook. Too many people are living out of a box anymore with God knows what ingredients they are putting into their bodies. Take care.

  3. Tried your cranberry sauce (with the shaved apple) and it was a hit. Thank you thank you. I always enjoy reading all of your posts. Appreciate having something worthy to read at work. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Stephanie hope you guys have a great turkey day…..and would you like to have more kids, you seem like a great mom

    1. Author

      Thanks. I’m good with my two sweet loves! I find it’s hard enough to schedule good one-on-one time with them, treating them as individuals, not twins. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke; I’m happy with the way things are NOW.

  5. Where is the actual recipe? I want to make this! Got here from Pinterest, can’t find the actual amounts and instructions. Help!

  6. I guess I should say which I want to make. The Louisiana/ Texas one. I live in La now, moved here from NC and have always made cornbread/sage stuffing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.