Stuffing — the masterpiece of Thanksgiving
The vote is in. My taste buds have decided that the top three dishes served at Thanksgiving dinner are cornbread stuffing, cranberry stuffing and more cornbread stuffing! Do you recall those commercials several years ago for Butterball turkey? Aunt Clara and Aunt Millie are about to have their first Thanksgiving dinner at their favorite nephew’s home and his new bride Betsy is doing all the cooking. As they motor their way to the festivities in their tan/gold 1978 Buick Riviera coupe, they both are decked to the nines in their polyester Butte Knit ensembles complete with driving gloves! The discussion turns to how the roasted turkey will be. In one smug accord, their voices unite, “Dry!” They obviously did not take part in my recent survey! Since when is the turkey the most important aspect of Thanksgiving dinner?
My mouth does water when viewing those Norman Rockwell images of grandma standing by grandpa who is at the head of the table waiting to carve this glorious tan, stuffed turkey. Proudly it rests like a crown on the regal platter – complete with a necklace of glazed baby carrots, white pearl onions, and little Brussels spouts pretending to be emeralds. Impulses of sweet joy leap in my heart with the thought of recreating this image with my own family. When the cooking channel comes calling, we will need two wall ovens plus a full range in our kitchen. Thanksgiving will be such a joy as two turkeys will be prepared with ease -one simply for the Rockwell look-a-like photograph and the other for dinner. Rest assured, however, the show turkey will delight our taste buds later as turkey pie and in a variety of sandwiches.
Shall we call it stuffing or dressing? Oh, the tangled dilemmas we cooks get ourselves into! First, let us remind ourselves that folks who do wear white after Labor Day amazingly do live to see the next Labor Day. Years ago, trained chefs would have cringed at someone erroneously calling stuffing, dressing. In our casual world, it has become commonplace to refer to it as dressing. My own personal take on it happens to be if our bread mixture is roasted with the meat it is stuffing, and if it is baked in the casserole solo I call it dressing.
Properly made stuffing adds radiant flavor to meat. We must be open to the idea to change our seasoning and ingredients to marriage well with our selected meat. Today we are concerned about decorating the inner cavity of our turkey. It is not often that we can stuff ourselves and keep our natural shape! However, with a turkey this is true. Stuffing allows our turkey to keep its naturally extended shape. Stuffing brings another blessing, and that is the slow distribution of flavors into the meat. You create this by carefully selecting spices and other elements added to the stuffing. Just when you think things can’t get any better, they do! The mingling of the juices and fats in the stuffing during roasting is the very reason that stuffing is my favorite dish at Thanksgiving.
For many of you seasoned cooks, making dressing is not a favorite task. You have made dressing dozens of times and your boredom factor practically reaches to the moon! So let me help you change it up. Dare to embrace change when thinking of your selection of pans or cans. Folks will really think you have it together when your dressing is served at the table in the shape of muffins or how about baking it in a large pineapple juice can! Oh this allows you to truly showoff as you can slice this cylinder with elegance. (Of course, you will want to serve it on your beautiful Spode tray.) There is nothing “put on” about trying to evolve a bit more elegance to a Thanksgiving table. When the compliments do come, quickly reach for your linen handkerchief and dab your eyes. Humility is a bit rare these days, but such an attractive quality in a host or hostess! Remember to grease all baking items well for an easy exit.
Yours truly is prone to huge enthusiasm when it comes to making stuffing or dressing. Who knows? It may be Jan and I driving down the road in a few years to Lydia’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. As we motor along, there will be no discussion of dry turkey. Instead a darling content couple decked out in coordinating polyester outfits, with a touch of spandex, anxiously awaiting delicious stuffing. Secretly each of us will wonder: Will our spandex help us keep shape after all this stuffing? I share with you two masterpieces from my stuffing recipe gallery.
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