Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Day of Much Stuffing.

Turkish perfection - stuffed with mushroom delectability.

For two years running now Matt and I have held an early-autumnal feast here in the land of the Pilgrims a weekend or two before THE holy Thursday. It is a chance for us ex-pats to come together with a lot of other ex-pat friends and be thankful and gluttonous. But besides that, it is also a rare opportunity to introduce friends of different nationalities to one of the few, truly identifiably, and uniquely (how many adverbs can I throw in here?) American traditions: Thanksgiving.

It's funny, but this year it seems like almost everyone I spoke to about Thanksgiving in the weeks
running up to it seemed to say how much they love stuffing - even to the exclusion of the otherwise obvious main attraction and slang-namesake of "Turkey Day" - that unfortunate and delicious wattle-d animal, the Turkey. Weirdly, I found myself in many an unorthodox Thanksgiving conversation over the past couple of weeks that went something like this:

"Hey, if I don't see you have a great Thanksgiving - and enjoy the Turkey!"

"Oh yeah, the turkey - I will. But actually for me it's all about the stuffing."


"So, have you picked up your bird yet?"

"Yeah, we got a big one this year. But what I look forward to every year is the stuffing."

or even

"MAN! That is a big turkey you've got there. You better make sure to leave some room for dessert!"

"Oh don't worry - I never eat much turkey. I am a stuffing kinda girl."

Fine, I made a couple of those up - but really!? Who knew that people were so stu
ck on the quieter, shyer, uglier cousin of the Thanksgiving star-of-the-show?

I mean, stuffing (or dressing, or whatever you call it!) is not that pretty to look at most of the time, especially if you cook it inside the cavity of the bird. It's brown and crumbly, or even gooey and steamed - so much so that you can slice it! But the secret that most people never talk about is that it has all the stuff in it that delicious Thanksgivings are made of. An understated, unflashy conglomeration of the bits-and-bobs of true Thanksgivingness that is the perfect accompaniment to
what should be, in my mind, a simple roast bird.

Yes, yes, yes, Thanksgiving IS all about the sides. I do agree. But no side, in my mind, can come close - if done right (and you can bet your bottom dollar it was done right this year!) - to matching the appeal of stuffing. Onto the list.

* * *

Top Four Reasons To Stuff Yourself This Thanksgiving
with stuffing or whatever else is cooked and within your grasp.
Screw the diet - it's the holidays (again).

4. Corn Pudding
Is it wrong to say that maybe in some bastardized crazy way this time-tested Thanksgiving staple is a shout-out to the Native Americans that so kindly showed the pilgrims how to farm and therefore also metaphorically kindled the embers that one day became the roaring fire of America? Is that so wrong?

Well even if it is, I think you and I know that whatever and whenever and whoever the hell this dish came from, there's a reason it shows up every year and gets eaten to the last Americana-encrusted-crumb every year. We all have our secret recipe - sugar or not, jiffy or not, kernels or not - and we all horde it (for absolutely no good reason) and all these things make corn pudding more than worthy to be on this list of reasons to stuff and be stuffed by the ones you love this Thanksgiving.

3. Cranberry Sauciness - Annual Permission to be Irreverent.
When else can you, in all seriousness, buy cranberries in a can, pop said can open and pour it - IN CAN FORM - onto a small platter and serve straight to guests with applause and glee all around?!
My little sister gets upset if I ever try to mash down the can shape and insists it's part of the Thanksgiving aesthetic. I cannot say I disagree.

And for the record, I like both with cranberry chunks and smooth. Availability of both is ideal for prime-stuffing situations.

2. Turkish (but not really) Perfection
In the painfully adulterated words of Michael Jackson...

"If you'll be my [Turkey] it don't matter if you're [dark] or white."

*awkward drum / cymbal slap*

For those of you who would otherwise avoid dark meat during the year because of its rich, fatty nature, now's the time to indulge. I like chicken legs as much as the next, but there is something perfectly thrilling (and positively medieval) about the size and deliciousness of Turkey legs that deserves a little respect and indulgence, and Turkey day is the night, day, and morning after for said indulgence.

Go on, have a second, or even third helping. Yes, the requisite delicate slices of breast meat should not be neglected (but let's be honest, you drench those in gravy anyway), but neither should the moist, fatty chunks of wing and thigh that we all know we're eyeing anyway. :)

1. Stuffing: The Ultimate Farce

Farce: a comedy which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verba humor of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include sexual innuendo and word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases, culminating in an ending which often involves an elaborate chase scene.

Sounds like Thanksgiving at my house pretty much every year around the time that I am trying to take the Turkey out of the oven.

But seriously, I bet you didn't know how sophisticated stuffing really is. According to this article, stuffing was actually called "farce" in the middle ages, which came from the Latin farcire or "to stuff." It is apparently also still called "forcemeat" by some people and only started to be referred to as "dressing" because of the (predictable) snootish propriety of the Victorian upper crust who found it offensive to use the term "stuffing" with reference to their nourishment.

Well now, I think the fact that we can use the word stuffing without fearing that our sensibilities and/or honor have somehow been slighted is as good a reason as any to get on into the kitchen and stuff stuff stuff!

* * *

Truly Delectable Mushroom Stuffing

Serves 10

Roman's First Thanksgiving

This year at our Thanksgiving party I got more compliments on my stuffing than I ever have in my life. Granted, I haven't made stuffing THAT many times, but I've tried as many recipes as I have times I've made it and this was a clear winner. It involves lots and lots of mushrooms, giblets galore (go on, be adventurous!), and a couple of predictable Brenda twists (red pepper flakes, for one) to give it my secret touch.

You've got to cook it in the bird or it just doesn't get that extra buttery, Turkey moistness oh-so-necessary for it to have a truly addictive quality. But if that's not how you roll (and I take great
issue with you if it isn't) then go ahead and bake it in a casserole dish, but add a whole lot more liquid in the form of Turkey drippings, stock, shiitake broth, wine or a generous mixture of all. Either way it's guaranteed to have you and your guests "wattling" poetic by the end of the meal.


3/4 loaf stale white bread, chopped into small squares
4 tbsps butter
4 cups chopped chestnut mushrooms
2 cups soaked and sliced shiitakes, broth reserved
2 medium onions, chopped into small pieces (not fine, not coarse)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 tbsps chopped fresh tarragon
2-3 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsps red chili pepper flakes
1 set turkey giblets (heart, liver, kidney, gizzard, neck meat) chopped / shredded finely
1/4 cup shiitake broth
1/4 cup chicken or turkey broth
salt, pepper to taste

our buffet table, waiting to be stuffed

1. Leave your loaf of bread (and I mean normal, sliced bread - not a baguette or the like) out and open for one night so it is nice and stale. Chop into thin slices and then small squares (pretty small actually). Put into a large metal bowl and set aside.

2. Soak the shiitakes in extremely hot water to rehydrate for 20-30 minutes. Slice once cool and reserve liquid.

3. Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat, then sautee the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes until translucent. Add mushrooms and thyme; sautee until well-cooked.

4. Increase heat to high and add white wine and leave to reduce until almost all liquid is gone. Season with salt and pepper generously. Remove pan from heat and pour onion-mushroom mixture over bread squares.

5. Add chopped giblets and shredded neck meat to bread mixture as well as tarragon and parsley. Mix well and then season again generously with salt and pepper.

6. At this point the mixture should look like fluffly stuffing. Pour shiitake and turkey broth over it and mix well. The mixture should not be soggy or wet looking.
MAKE AHEAD: Make stuffing night before Thanksgiving; put into ziplock bags and refrigerate until needed the next day.

7. When you're ready to make the turkey, stuff both the main and the neck cavities with the stuffing, and be sure to baste it generously with turkey drippings as the turkey bakes.

PLEASE NOTE: It is safe to bake stuffing in a turkey as long as the turkey and stuffing are both at room temperature before they go into the oven - do not bake stuffing in a bird that is partially or wholly frozen or the heat will not penetrate the stuffing fast enough!
Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. I enjoy reading this post and learning on Thanksgiving. As a person from Turkey (funny similarty, isn't it?), I didn't know much about that special day. I've learnt a lot so far reading some food blogs like yours.

    I love the way you give the relation between stuffing and farce. That's absolutely interesting.

    And thank you for the recipe of stuffed turkey, sounds great. I'll try it with chicken as we can't easily find whole turkey in the markets here.

  2. Hi Zerrin - thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post and I hope your stuffed chicken turns out delicious. :)

  3. Happy Belated Thanksgiving - just back from the holiday of stuffing ourselves, I can vouch that stuffing is my favorite. Every year I have the same argument with myself, why do I so rarely make stuffing outside of thanksgiving. Its not line there is a limit on stuffing production outside of this holiday, but I have such strong associations between stuffing and Thanksgiving that it hardly ever comes on my radar as a good side option.

    Glad you had a good time, and it looks like Roman was certainly taking it all in. I can only imagine what a turkey cost in the UK, I was in a store in Minneapolis and they were bragging at buying a turkey for $0.19/pound.

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! The stuffing sounds excellent!

  5. I. Adore. Corn. Pudding. But no one else in my immediate universe seems too keen so it's a rare occasion that I can indulge. 8-( Still, I can't complain - we had quite the spread this year and for the first time in a long while, I didn't outsource Thanksgiving to Whole Foods! 8-)