Last year, I wrote about nontraditional turkey dressings and stuffings. You can find those posts here:

Polenta Stuffing with Pancetta and Sage  (This is my favorite of the nontraditional stuffings; I love how it becomes so light and ethereal, almost like a souffle)

Skirlie (Scottish Oatmeal Stuffing)

Wild Rice Stuffing with Garlic & Pine Nuts

Evelyn Cheatham’s Rustic Cornbread Dressing

Even though I enjoy all these dishes, I confess that my personal favorite is quite traditional. It begins with good sturdy sourdough hearth bread from a local bakery. For an 18 to 20 pound turkey, I use two 1-pound loaves. While the bread is still fresh and moist, I tear it into chunks about the size of a ping-pong ball. I spread the bread on something–sheet pans if they are not being using for something else, sheets of wax paper in a pinch–and let it dry over night. Shortly before it is time to put the turkey in the oven, I melt two sticks of good butter in a large deep pan and cook 2 diced onions and about 3 cups or so of diced celery until soft and very fragrant, about 30 minutes on low heat. Then I season the vegetables generously with salt, black pepper and a lot of minced fresh sage. Sometimes I saute 3 or 4 sausages (out of their casings) separately and sometimes I don’t.

When the onions and celery are ready, I put the bread into a large bowl, add the onion mixture and the sausage, if it’s a year for it, taste and correct for salt and spoon it into both cavities of the turkey. (Dressing that doesn’t fit goes into a souffle dish and gets drizzled with a little turkey stock. I put it into the oven about 45 minutes before dinner.) I immediately put the turkey into the oven to roast.

I love the way hearth bread absorbs the juices of the turkey and love, too, the way the sourdough flavors remain pleasingly strong. Because I leave the crusts on the bread and because the bread itself is sturdy, the dressing never gets soggy.


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  1. Tyffani

    This traditional version is very close to what I make. While the polenta stuffing sounds devine, I think I’m going to stick with the traditional and incorporate some of your tips! Thanks Michele!

    November 23rd, 2010 5:22 pm

  2. J

    My all-timer, gets rave reviews: personal touches added to the Silver Palate recipe.

    Ingredients: proportioned as you see fit.

    Diced dried apricots, Grand Marnier, Turkey liver and heart, unsalted butter, celery, onion, pork sausage, any nice bread and cornbread, slivered almonds, chicken stock, dried thyme and salt and pepper – it’s GREAT!

    November 23rd, 2010 5:40 pm

  3. Elise Baril

    Since I married a Southerner, I’ve learned to love cornbread and wild rice stuffing. Add some diced pears and cranberries, ohhhhh it’s so good! I always make that, as well as a traditional one, it varies, sometimes like this year, it’s with chestnuts from the Santa Rosa Farmers Market and wild mushrooms. Some years it’s simpler with celery and onions and always LOTS of Bells Poultry Seasoning. I love stuffing with gravy!

    November 23rd, 2010 8:23 pm

  4. Terra Hues

    The traditional is my favorite and I like the sound of your recipe. I will try a version of it tomorrow as I am doing an early T day with my family in Truckee. How do you cook your turkey?

    November 23rd, 2010 10:40 pm

  5. MicheleAnna.Jordan

    I put my turkey, stuffed, into a hot (425 degrees) oven. I also soak a small tea towel in butter and drape it over the breast. Then I roast it for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and roast it for about 15 minutes per pound until it reaches an internal temperature of about 155 degrees. I remove the butter-soaked tea towel about 30 minutes before it is done. After I pull it out of the oven, I drape it (loosely) in aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 to 40 minutes, during which time it continues to cook. The temperature rises at least 10 degrees and sometimes 15.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Have a great time with your family.

    November 23rd, 2010 10:44 pm

  6. Robin Pressman

    I tried Italian sausage with Ricotta cheese, eggs and herbs, all under the skin in a butterflied turkey on the grill. Interesting, but not the thrill I was expecting. Next year, stuffing with bread for sure. I’m going to try Evelyn’s cornbread dressing.

    December 2nd, 2010 8:49 am

  7. Herbert

    Our dressing/stuffing is a California Citrus one: Corn bread with raisins, apples, oranges, walnuts, butter, milk and celery.
    Our customers love it!
    by Herbert

    November 22nd, 2011 4:30 pm

  8. Beth Sereni

    I’m very much a traditionalist. I have ventured, in the past, to sausage, cornbread, nuts and the like but I always return to the basics. I made homemade white bread this year (although I think I would prefer sourdough) and it’s just onions, celery, butter, egg, fresh herbs from the garden and stock for me. Going to try the ATK method of stuffing the bird with the stuffing inside of some cheesecloth and then removing it, mixing it with unstuffed stuffing (if that makes sense) and baking it off to finish by itself in the oven. Never tried that approach before. I’ve discovered over the years that Thanksgiving is always an adventure…

    November 22nd, 2011 4:55 pm

  9. kstohlmann

    I am going to try to make my grandmother’s turkey dressing this year, might be a challenge because while the recipe card lists all the ingredients, it neglects to list any proportions! But it will have pork sausage, two loaves of bread, 4 eggs (the only amount of ingredient listed), milk, and salt/pepper/parsley. Could be weird but I am excited! So is my mom who hasn’t made it in years (and can’t remember proportion either) because my dad never liked stuffing. But she did say he will need to at least try it :)

    November 22nd, 2011 6:06 pm

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