How to Make Stuffing
Aimee HerringSupermarket stuffing is fine, but for something really spectacular this Thanksgiving, try making your stuffing from scratch. As chef Katherine Polenz of the Culinary Institute of America demonstrates, it's really not that hard.
Stuffing from ScratchShe begins by melting about a stick of butter in a large pan, then adds chopped onion (4 oz) and chopped celery (2 oz). These vegetables are the core of the stuffing's flavor, and they need to cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until they become translucent. Next up, she adds more flavoring: chopped fresh sage, chopped parsley, a pinch of thyme and a bit of poultry seasoning.
While that cooks, she adds about 2 baguettes worth of stale bread to a large bowl. She adds about 4 oz of chicken or turkey stock to the pan with the vegetables and lets it heat up, then pours the entire mixture over the bread cubes, stirring and tossing to distribute the liquid. She adds a little bit of salt and pepper, then mixes in a beaten egg to help bind the stuffing. Since the bread is sufficiently moist (you don't want it soggy), she chooses not to add additional stock. After buttering a casserole dish, she transfers the mixture to the dish and covers it with foil, then bakes the covered stuffing in a 350F oven for 20 minutes, then uncovers the dish and bakes it another 20 minutes.
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I'm Chef Katherine M. Polenz, from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm here to show you this kitchen basic: making turkey stuffing.
The way to start making a good stuffing, whether you're going to use it for turkey, or to serve with pork shops or whatever you like to have stuffing with, is to start with a nice healthy chunk of butter. I'm going to put a little heat on under the sauté pan and I'm going to add my butter. Now, for the quantity I'm making, this is enough for probably six or eight people, so don't get too scared when you see how much butter I put in here, but it's going to be close to a quarter of a pound.
Once the butter goes in the pan and starts to melt down, I'm going to add onions and celery. Those are actually the core of the really good flavor that goes into making a good stuffing. Stuffing can be a little bit intimidating, so rather than jump for the pre-made stuff, that you just add water to, I'm going to show you that it's really pretty simple to make good homemade stuffing, and it's really the perfect thing to do with old stale bread.
In go the onions - that's truly the foundation of flavor for this stuffing - and then the celery. Quantity-wise, I have four ounces of onion and two ounces of celery. To get the onions and the celery to cook down, they really need to cook for five to ten minutes until they become really tender. You'll see that right now the celery is really green and the onions are still kind of white and opaque; I'm going to be looking for them to actually go clear.
The next thing I'm going to add, while the onions and celery are kind of stewing in butter, is come chopped fresh sage. If you don't have access to fresh sage you can use dry sage; it's not a problem. With fresh sage I'm using about a tablespoon; with dry sage I'd say about a teaspoon, maybe - no more than that. I'm also going to add in some chopped fresh parsley; I'm also putting in a small pinch of chopped fresh thyme. And the secret weapon of all grandmas across America is this stuff right here: it's called poultry seasoning, which has in it a whole host of herbs and spices that are dried and ground. If you could actually smell what's happening here right now, the fragrance of these herbs hitting the hot butter and onions and celery really makes this just wonderful. It immediately smells like Thanksgiving! I'm going to let this simmer just a little bit longer, and let those onions cook out just a little bit more, and while that's happening I'm going to talk to you about the bread.
This is bread that's been diced up and it's really kind of hard at this point; we've been letting it sit out in the air. It's okay for it to be stale; that actually makes it better for stuffing. This is the dish I'm going to bake the stuffing in, so you can see about how much bread - just enough to make a nice mound - and that way I know I've cut enough. This is about two baguettes' worth of bread.
So dump that into a bowl - we'd put it in the baking dish just to measure - and now my onions are translucent, you can see in a matter of just a few moments how they change. At this point I'm going to add some stock; this could be chicken stock, turkey stock, out of the box, out of a can. I've added about four ounces, maybe a little more than that, for now. I'm just letting that get hot, because the next step is to remove this mixture from the heat and take it to the bread and pour it over the bread. That little bit of stock that I heated up first, in with the onions and the celery, is going to be the initial moisture in the stuffing. Now, this stuffing looks pretty good to me at this point. I am going to add just a little bit of salt and pepper, mix that in, and visually you can see that the stuffing, the bread, is starting to get kind of moist. If I touch it, it's not hard and stiff any more.
The next step is to take an egg, and this is just to help bind the stuffing together. I beat it in a small bowl and then pour it in and mix around the contents of the bowl. One quick check with that added moisture, to make sure; I don't think I need any other stock to go in. Now to get this ready to go into the oven, this is every home cook's favorite part: take a nice gob of butter in your hand and just butter the whole inside of your casserole dish. This makes the cleanup better, plus it helps make the stuffing taste better. A little extra butter left in there is perfectly acceptable.
So the stuffing's completely mixed, and I'm going to tumble all this into my buttered dish. It really helps the overall texture of the finished product to just have it be kind of gently pushed into place. It's time to cover it up with foil to get ready to put it into the oven. It doesn't have to be covered too tight, you can just crimp it down a little bit around the edges. I'm going to put the stuffing in the oven, covered, at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. After twenty minutes I'm going to remove the cover and bake it another twenty minutes or so.
The stuffing is finished! It's got a nice crispy crust on top, and if I tap it, there's a little bit of a sound of crunchiness on top; that would be appropriate for knowing that it's time to come out. I'm going to scoop in with a spoon, and you can see that it kind of wants to come up in one big chunk because of that nice crust that's formed on the outside. But it's nice and moist on the inside. Here we have our beautiful Thanksgiving stuffing.
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