Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stuffing, well-dressed.

Dressing. © Ryan Schierling
I have a confession to make.

I like Stove Top stuffing. What's more, the enjoyment of it makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel… dirty. I mean, I know how to make damn good scratch stuffing. Or, dressing. Or, whatever. But I like it. I like that hot, engineered-moist, melt-in-your-mouth processed-and-preserved-then-rehydrated bread product. I like the heavy-handed salt and powdered sage and MSG, seasoned as only a chain-smoking veteran corporate chef could do it. I love that all you have to add is a little water and a 1/4 cup "53% vegetable oil spread stick," (though we just used butter) and in five minutes you have stuffing (dressing).

I've kept this under wraps for a while, ever since Food TV became Food Network, and even more since the term "foodie" became so sickeningly ubiquitous. I've been embarrassed to buy guilty-pleasure box crap at the grocery store – hiding the occasional Totino's Party Pizza under a head of lettuce, tucking Kraft Macaroni & Cheese behind actual cheese and if I can't get the Slim Jims folded into the issue of Bon Appetit, I just take them out of the box and stick them in my shorts.

For what I like to call Thanksgiving "research," we bought a box of Stove Top Stuffing Mix (For Turkey with Real Turkey Broth) a few days ago. It cost $1.25. It was prepared and we ate it. We ate it all, right out of the pan, and we didn't really talk for a while after that.

Tonight, we made two different types of Thanksgiving dressing, each unrehearsed. By "unrehearsed," I mean that these are not really recipes we've cooked before, or have written down anywhere, or came from family members. It was sort of a "freestyle" stuffing night, starting with the basics - bread, onions and celery, savory liquid, and herbs.

I made homemade Stove Top. I was still a little enamored with the previous day's box, and so I used a mix of cubed and dried French and sourdough bread, sauteed onion and celery, chicken stock, fresh sage, flat-leaf parsley, thyme, and a bit of rosemary. I also used enough kosher salt to make that chain-smoking corporate chef proud. It was moist and delicious, and I didn't feel guilty at all afterward.

Julie bought acorn squash, and she put together some no-fooling-around proper stuffing that felt like Thanksgiving and tasted like Fall, with French bread, dried fruit and nuts, a little green apple, and some mandarin orange juice and brown sugar in the bottom of the halved squash. It was like no stuffing I'd ever eaten, and it made me feel like I'd really been slumming it with the Stove Top.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ahem… fancy acorn squash stuffing recipe follows.

Acorn squash, stuffed with... the good stuff. © Ryan Schierling

Dressing-stuffed Acorn Squash

Cut two acorn squash cut in half (from stem to stern, not at hemisphere), plus cut a thin sliver off outside for a flat bottom. Bake squash insides-down at 400º F on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Mix 1 tablespoon brown sugar with 1 teaspoon melted butter and a bit of mandarin orange juice. Just coat inside/hollow of squash with this mixture before adding stuffing, then sprinkle a pinch of salt over them.


4-5 cups French bread, cubed and dried in 250-300º F oven (convection setting works best if you've got it).

Saute in butter until soft:

1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 Granny Smith apple (diced)

Add two handfuls each of the following: golden raisins, dried unsweetened cranberries, and filbert nuts (roughly chopped and toasted). Transfer to a mixing bowl and add:

1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2-1 teaspoons fresh marjoram, finely chopped
1/2-1 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Mix well and add:

1-1/2 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1-2 fresh squeezed mandarin oranges
Pinch of salt

Be sure there is enough moisture that the mixture will stick together when formed into a tennis-sized ball.

Stuff squash by pressing a ball of dressing into each pre-baked half.

Bake at 375º F for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender and the stuffing is browned.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome comments. Thanks for your patience as we moderate to avoid spam and other internet foolishness.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...