For Thanksgiving dinner, we usually stuck to the classics. There was always a great deal of mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, rolls that would blow your minds, and stuffing. For the most part, I think my Mom usually would use that package stuffing mix for the traditional stuffing dish. It tasted alright from what I remembered, but it wasn't until the one year she decided to try something completely new and out-of-our-usual-stuffing-box that my expectations of stuffing were all-the-sudden changed. And changed for good. Wicked style, man.
She served up a giant dish with layers of crisp sourdough bread, spicy sausage, spots of cranberries, and a few random slices of green apple - all soaked together in the bright beautiful flavors of whatever incredible broth she had baked it in. My overall view of stuffing was completely changed, and even to this year, I try to casually request for her to make it for the Thanksgiving table. Today, I'm sharing this very recipe (or as close as I can taste) with you fine people.
The stuffing is super-thick, so starting with a sourdough base is a must. I picked up a pre-sliced circle loaf of sourdough from the bakery. I kept it in the freezer until I knew I was going to use it that day, and then let it defrost until I was preparing the recipe. I usually freeze my breads if I'm not using them within 3 or 4 days of purchasing it from the bakery - I've had far too many loafs of bread or rolls turn that lovely (GROSS) blue hue before the day I was going to use it for dinner. And since I only make 1 trip to the grocery store, this is how I make it work.
I chopped the loaf up in little 1-inch pieces and gave them some slightly crispy edges by toasting them all in the oven at the same time in a hot oven.
At this point, it's a good idea to get a huge bowl. This recipe makes a ton of stuffing, and being able to mix it all together perfectly starts with a very large stirring vessel. Dump all the toasted bread crumbs in the bottom of the bowl, and get started on building the gorgeous flavors that will soak up these lovely little pieces of toasted bread.
First, start off by melting an entire stick of butter in a large pan. That may sound like a ton of butter, but really, you have a TON of bread, veggies, and everything else that need to be seasoned with something incredible. Butter is a great place to start. When the butter is melted, add in the chopped onion, chopped celery, chopped parsley, salt & pepper, and then an ingredient that most wouldn't have even considered in this dish: GREEN APPLE. This is the ringer, folks. This, combined with the spicy sausage, will be what people remember the most. The crisp & tart green apple will soak up the glorious flavors you're building in that pool of butter, and will add the most heavenly contrast to the soft (and some pieces crunchy) bread crumbs.
Toss the green apple veggie mix right in the giant bowl with the bread crumbs, followed by the cooked & browned sausage, and topped off with the handful of craisins/cranberries. The cranberries cut through the softened tart flavors of the apple veggie mix, and add such a beautiful brightness to the dish - also some really gorgeous red color.
Isn't it just lovely? All these beautiful flavors are going into the stuffing, and each will shine through perfectly under the bed of toasted bread crumbs. Lastly, I tossed a handful of sliced almonds on top (for a little more crunchy texture) before baking. Bake for as long as you need to achieve that top layer of crispy goodness. You want it as browned and dark as possible (not burned! Watch those almonds!), and the inside of the dish to become as hot as it can - the bread will soak in all those amazing flavors we built up from scratch, and will take on a whole new personality. It's just incredible! If you're still not sure what version of stuffing to serve this year at the Thanksgiving table, I trust this recipe 100% and know it will rock your table, and have everyone raving about it. :) Enjoy!
Green Apple & Sausage Stuffing
makes 8-10 servings
12 C 1-inch sourdough bread cubes
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium granny smith apples, cored, stemmed, and cubed
2 T flat leaf parsley, minced
1 T kosher salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 C chicken stock
1 C dried cranberries
1/2 C sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bread crumbs on a large cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes until slightly toasted on the edges. Remove from the pan, and pour into a very large bowl. Set aside.
2. In a large saute pan, or pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onions, celery, apples, parsley and salt & pepper. Saute until veggies are tender. Pour over bowl of toasted bread pieces.
3. In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until completely cooked through and a little brown toasted on the edges. Add to bread & veggies in the large bowl.
4. Spray a little cooking spray in a 9x13 dish and place beside the large bowl. Add dried cranberries and pour over chicken stock. Gently stir mixture with a wooden spoon, then pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly toasted and the inside is very hot. Let rest, then serve warm.
Recipe adapted from: Ina Garten, Food Network