Year to year, Thanksgiving Day in our home holds nostalgic value in the comfortable familiarity of the traditions we keep and the foods we eat.
When I was a young wife and mother, I had idealistic visions of holiday gatherings and how they should go. Martha Stewart was an idol of mine, and my goal was to make every holiday picture and memory personify Norman Rockwell’s drawings.
I think it was about the fifth year into my marriage when I became tired of Martha Stewart hovering in my kitchen insisting that gravy simply wouldn’t do if it were lumpy or greasy and that the potatoes had to be smoother than Potato Buds or they weren’t done “right.” And Norman Rockwell? Let’s just say that while I admire the man’s representation of early 20th-century America, he probably wouldn’t have found much artistic value in me wearing my bathrobe and an apron, with hot rollers in my hair, cup of coffee in one hand, stuffing a bird with the other and yelling at my son to please go put some clothes on for the fourth time in an hour before the guests show up. So now, Thanksgiving means family interaction and not making the house a carbon copy of the Good Housekeeping cover.
Of course, it also means food.
Along with the homemade cranberry sauce, the other main dish of the day is the stuffing. Many times, especially since I kicked Martha out of my kitchen, we don’t bother making mashed potatoes and just smother our stuffing with gravy. My husband says my stuffing is practically a food group by itself, and since it is such a versatile dish, mine never contains all of the same ingredients form year to year. If I like what I did that year, I write down what works and copy it into a food journal.
I usually do have a few of the same things in it, like sausage, apple, sage, onion and — of course — bread. Because I don’t buy bread cubes, I start saving and freezing loaf ends starting in July. In November I cut them into cubes and toast them in the oven at 350°F for ten minutes or until toasted. I don’t know for sure that making your toasted bread cubes saves any money but I do know it is less money out of pocket.
Stuffing is a very good meal stretcher, it can be made year round and fills tummies fast. If you are looking for a new stuffing recipe, I recommend finding a copy of The Joy of Cooking and turning to page 532. There are 10 pages of quality, cost-friendly stuffing recipes that are simple to prepare.
The following recipe is a simple one I made four years ago with good results.
Jodi Bart is a 12-year Kodiak resident and a longtime baker who writes a weekly column about tasty and affordable options for home cooking in remote Alaska.
Basic Stuffing Recipe
Makes approximately 12 cups
30 slices white bread, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound of sausage
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large green apple
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Allow the toasted bread to sit uncovered for about 24 hours, until hard.
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook sausage until well-browned. Stir in the onion, celery and apple and slowly cook until soft. Remove from heat and drain.
Pour the chicken broth into the bread cubes. The mixture should be moist, but not mushy. Use water, if necessary, to attain desired consistency. Mix in the sausage, apple, onion, celery, sage, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Press the mixture into the baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350 °F, or until the top is brown and crisp.