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What You'll Need
There is no one right recipe for stuffing, turkey's perennial partner, just a general formula: Mix a dry base such as day-old bread with sauteed vegetables, meat (if you like), herbs, and seasonings; then add a binder such as stock or eggs, and gently toss. Tailor stuffing to your family and friends' palates to make it irresistible.
1 one-pound loaf of bread set out overnight (or 1 1/2 pounds cornbread)
4 cups (2 pounds) chopped vegetables
1 cup fresh herbs, predominantly parsley, sage, and thyme
2 cups or less liquid (or 3 eggs)
1 pound meat
Butter and/or olive oil
4 cups or less fruit, vegetables, and nuts
3 tablespoons seasoning
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Step 1: Prepare the Bread
If using white bread, cut it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices, and set out overnight to dry. Break into 1/4-inch cubes (if using cornbread, break 1/2-inch slices into 1-inch pieces).
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Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients
Chop a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, and set out liquid.
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Step 3: Saute Meat
Saute sausage, pork, or beef until cooked through, and remove from skillet with a slotted spoon.
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Step 4: Saute Vegetables
Saute the chopped vegetables in the rendered fat from the meat (or in butter and olive oil) until they are softened.
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Step 5: Put It Together
Combine cooked meat (or cured meat such as ham), all vegetables, fruit, nuts, and bread; toss.
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Step 6: Season
Add herbs and seasoning; toss again.
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Step 7: Add Liquid
Add liquid; taste and adjust seasoning (if using eggs or raw oysters, adjust seasoning first, then decrease any other liquid and add three beaten eggs). Toss just until combined -- overmixing yields a gummy texture.
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Stuff turkey just before roasting it. Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing for each pound of turkey. Don't pack stuffing tightly; it expands as it cooks. Use a thermometer to ensure that stuffing reaches 165 degrees; remove as soon as turkey comes out of oven. Bake any extra stuffing in a covered buttered baking dish at 375 degrees until heated through and top is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.
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Most stuffing has the same foundation: bread. Beyond that, combine complementary flavors, such as citrus rind and fruit juice, or those that contrast, like pecans and dried cherries. Use a variety of colors and textures, too. For best results, include plenty of vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Vegetables add nuance to the flavor of stuffing and can change its texture, depending on how they are cut and whether they are cooked before being added. Fennel gives a note of sweet anise; mushrooms yield an earthy flavor and a meaty texture.
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Herbs and Spices
As you season with herbs and spices, taste frequently and adjust accordingly to get a result you like. Used sparingly, dry mustard and cinnamon are good choices. Cayenne pepper and cumin add heat, whereas paprika and turmeric provide color.
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Fruits, Nuts, and More
Try fresh apples, pears, or oranges -- dried apricots, cranberries, or raisins. Reconstituted dried mushrooms, pine nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts add heft. Parmigiano-Reggiano imparts not only richness but bite.
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The most important ingredient of stuffing may be the binder, for it keeps all the other elements in place. For a fluffy texture, use eggs. Less conventional possibilities include fruit juice (such as apple or orange) and alcohol (wine or liqueur).