The winter holidays are a great time for preserving old traditions and starting new ones. Whether your Thanksgiving table is spread with a motley assortment of potluck dishes brought by friends, a gleaming feast catered by the chef of the house, or a homespun affair full of memory and warmth, this stuffing recipe is a classic addition. I like to make it a day ahead (leaving out the oysters) so I can enjoy the smells of sage and almonds and then let the mingle before dressing the turkey. I lightly sautee the oysters just before I put it into the bird. This makes enough to stuff a medium turkey (12-14 lbs.) and still have plenty left over for a side dish on the table.
You will need:
- 1 lb bread – crusts on, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces. I like to use a combination of black rye and sourdough, but anything will do. Whole wheat can sometimes be a little heavy or become doughy.
- 1 cup cooked wild rice
- 1 pt. medium or small raw oysters – rinsed, with the liquor reserved and set aside.
- 3 or 4 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms: button, crimini, oyster, shiitake, portabello, and chantrelle are all great; I don’t like to use dried mushrooms, but dried morels are nice if you have them.
- 1 cup sliced raw almonds, dry-toasted in a skillet and set aside
- ½ cup chopped dried fruit, such as raisins, cherries, currants, dates, or any combination thereof
- 4-6 cloves fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup or more of chicken or vegetable stock
- Fresh or dried herbs – I use more than a tablespoon of each (except cloves, cayenne, and rosemary – go lightly), but adjust according to your own tastes:
1. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, sprinkled with some of the herbs, plus a little salt and olive oil. Let them get good and dry, but not burnt.
2. Sautee the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and celery in a large frying pan. Add the dried fruit and almonds, and cook until the fruit is softened.
3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, vegetable mixture, rice, and herbs. Toss everything together until it’s well mixed, and moisten with broth. Adjust the seasonings according to taste.
4. If you’re going to stuff the bird immediately, add the raw oysters to the mix and moisten with both the broth and the liquor left over from the oysters. If you’re going to wait, leave the oysters until you’re ready to do the stuffing. If the stuffing is only a side dish, spread it out in a casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so, until hot all the way through.