Filling a holiday bird with herbed bread crumbs is a tradition for many families. The exact ingredients of the stuffing are something that's passed on through the generations.
Stuffing is usually made with dried bread that has been crumbled up, but rice or potatoes can form the basis for interesting stuffing recipes as well. In fact, it's hard to find two recipes that can ever produce the same results - celery, oysters, onions, dried fruit and even meats can all be added to give flavor and texture to the dish.
Stuffing or Dressing
The basic ingredients and method of creating this dish may have some similarities between recipes, but there is a further divide when one considers what to do with the results: Stuff the bird or dress it? Once the ingredients are wet with stock or water, seasoned according to family tradition or taste, they are either lightly packed in the roasting bird's body cavity or cooked beside the bird in a shallow baking pan.
Stuffing absorbs the juices that run off from a roasting fowl. While this can be duplicated in dressing by spooning the juices over the dressing during the roasting process, there are those that maintain it produces both a better side dish and a moister bird. For those that dress the bird, rather than stuffing it, it gives the dish a chance to allow its flavors to stand up on there own without the excess fat and moisture that can be produced by stuffing.
If you don't have a family tradition of your own, or you want to strike out on your own, consider any of these stuffing variations for your bird:
- Use bread made with almond meal instead of wheat for a heartier, nutty tasting stuffing.
- Include lots of dried fruits, including cranberries, for a sweeter tasting side.
- Crumble sausage along with peppers and onions into the bread before stuffing to create a savory dish that complements the turkey.
- Soak the bread for dressing in a stock made from the turkey neck and giblets to get the turkey flavor without having to stuff the bird.
Experiment with your stuffing; you may find that with some tinkering you can create a recipe perfect for handing down to your children and grandchildren.
Timing Your Stuffing Recipes
When stuffing a bird with bread mix, be sure to do it immediately before the bird is ready to be put into the oven. If stuffed earlier and then refrigerated, the stuffing can become contaminated with micro-organisms. The stuffing probably will not become hot enough in the roasting process to sterilize the microbes.
Birds aren't the only entree that can be stuffed, of course. Many cuts of meat are offered thickly-sliced with a pouch cut into them for stuffing - thick-cut pork chops with your favorite stuffing recipe can be particularly nice.