Monday, December 2, 2013

After the Fact: Thanksgiving Dressing on Black Friday


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Ours was full of the usual shenanigans. My dad walked in the kitchen a the crack of dawn, gave everyone their duties in drill-sergeant fashion, and then looked in my direction and made an announcement about no one getting sauced before lunch. Well, damn. So, as we careened from great successes (the scalloped potatoes were glorious, as was the homemade pumpkin pie from the puree I made last month) to some disasters (the convection oven dried out the top layer of turkey breast, which had to be surgically repaired by no less than five people before serving). However, we were only 45 minutes late in getting the meal on the table and no one got completely sauced before lunch. Promise. There's one area of our Thanksgiving dinners that remains totally unsatisfactory, however. Dressing.

This is an area of debate at my house. My mom likes her mom's cornbread dressing, but we can't ever get it quite right. We've tried a variety of bread dressing recipes, but someone always hates it. My dad has long since thrown in the towel and requests Stove Top purely out the desire for stress-less consistency. This year, we had a complete break down. Mom threw on three boxes of Stove Top at Dad's request, in all the chaos the burner got jacked up, and my sister and I kept looking at each other asking, "Is something burning?" as we poured another glass of wine. Well, gentle readers, the Stove Top was burnt tar-black to the bottom of the pot, and it was the proverbial blessing in disguise. I always feel obligated to eat a bit of it because I love dressing! I want it! I crave it! And then I elegantly spit it into my napkin and feed the rest to the small, prowling dogs under the table. Sigh. We had a dressing-less Thanksgiving meal, and our guests were too gracious to mention it.

Today is Black Friday, and I still want some freaking dressing. Everyone has gone, and it's just me and my parents at the house. I decided that today, today was going to be the day I would conquer the dressing debacle that has plagued us for years! So I surveyed the grocery contents and went searching online for a recipe. I adapted this recipe for Sage Dressing.
First, to survey the bread. On hand, we had a nice loaf of honey wheat and some leftover hotdog and hamburger buns. In the interest of economics, I cubed up about 6 slices of bread, two hotdog buns my 11 year old had mangled and left in the bag (sounds delicious, I know), and a hamburger bun. I sprinkled them with about a teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary and toasted them in the oven until they were mildly crunchy.
I didn't have any leek or mushroom, so I chopped up about a 2/3 a cup of celery left over from the veggie tray, 1/2 cup of the worst onion I've ever cut up (picture me sobbing over the cutting board, the gases were so strong), and two cloves garlic. I sauteed the veggies in about a tablespoon of leftover orange-rosemary butter and about 3 tablespoons of fat I'd skimmed off the stock we made and reserved. When the veggies were cooked down a bit, I added salt, white pepper, and a half cup of white wine. I let it reduce a bit, and took the pan off the burner. To the veggies I added 1 t dried, ground sage, 1 t dried marjoram, 1T fresh chopped sage and 1 t fresh chopped thyme. Into the bread bowl went the veggies, which I mixed with as little handling as I could manage. Then I added two eggs and 1/2 t baking powder and gently combined them into the bread cubes. Over that, I poured about 2 1/4 cups homemade stock. You want the cubes well moistened, but not soupy, and don't overmix them into a concrete-like dough brick. The cubes should be able to maintain their original form. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs. I think the 400 degrees the recipe calls for is really a recipe for dried-out dressing. I baked mine at 325 for a half an hour covered in foil and then another 15-20 minutes uncovered to crisp up the top. Be mindful this is totally dependent upon your cooking vessel. I cooked this in a deep dish with a small circumference, so it needed more cooking time. If you don't want a soft center but want more crunch, spread this on a cookie sheet with sides and cook around half the time, checking frequently for dryness/doneness.


By this point, I'm sure you've all realized that food photography is not my strong suit. I apologize. This shot is particularly unlovely because we fell on this dressing like ravening wolves the moment it emerged from the oven. It was just doughy enough for me, crispy on top, and light and fluffy. My mom thinks we should add some cornbread next time, as she does not care for all-bread dressing. I think you could do up any combination you wish!

Recipe follows:


Black Friday Dressing (next year, I will make it on Thursday)

  • 4 cups cubed bread (double this for a group of more than about 5) (whatever bread combo you have on hand, but if you're being  fancy, a nice loaf of Challah, potato bread, or sourdough would be lovely)
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 5 T fat (butter, turkey drippings, bacon grease, whatever you like)
  • 1 t dried sage
  • 1 t dried marjoram
  • 1 T fresh chopped sage
  • 1 t fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 t fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I like Progresso)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
Cube the bread, sprinkle it with the rosemary, and toast it in a low-heat oven (about 250-300 degrees). If you like your dressing a bit doughy, toast your bread just crunchy. If you like a firmer dressing, toast it more thoroughly. Move to a large bowl.

Chop up about a 2/3 a cup of celery, 1/2 cup of onion, and two cloves garlic. Saute the veggies in about 4 tablespoons of fat. When the veggies are cooked down a bit, add salt, white pepper, and a half cup of white wine. Let it reduce a bit, and take the pan off the burner. To the veggies add dried sage, dried marjoram, fresh sage, and fresh thyme. Into the bread bowl add the veggies, and mix with as little handling as possible. Add two eggs and 1/2 t baking powder and gently combine them into the bread cubes. Over that, pour about 2 1/4 cups homemade stock, about a half cup at a time. You want the cubes well moistened, but not soupy, and don't overmix them into a concrete-like dough brick. The cubes should be able to maintain their original form. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs. Put mix into a greased, oven-safe dish (for shallow dishes, cook for less time; for deep dishes cook at the recommended time or a bit longer).

Bake at 325 for a half an hour covered in foil and then another 15-20 minutes uncovered to crisp up the top. Be mindful this is totally dependent upon your cooking vessel.