This is the second of three posts about nontraditional turkey dressings.

Skirlie, the first of two recipes in this post, is from my young friend Alyssa, who told me about it when she was still in elementary school. Now she is in high school and has as curious and eager a palate as ever. She’s a great cook, too. I was unfamiliar with this traditional Scottish dish and had to overcome an aversion to oatmeal to try it, which I was motivated to do because of Alyssa’s enthusiasm. I discovered that savory steel cut oats are nothing at all like the insipid sweet rolled oats of my childhood. This is a delicious dressing, earthy and rich, especially after it absorbs the juices of the turkey during cooking.

As with any dressing, make sure the skirlie (and the wild rice dressing, which follows the recipe for skirlie) reaches at least 145 degrees when you remove it from the oven, let the bird rest for 15 to 45 minutes and remove the dressing from the bird’s cavity when you carve the turkey.

Traditionally, skirlie is cooked on top of the stove but it makes a wonderful stuffing, too.

Skirlie (Scottish Oatmeal Stuffing)

For 1 small to medium turkey

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 3 cups steel cut oats
  • 2 cups turkey stock or water
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium low heat and when it is melted, add the onions and saute until they are very soft, fragrant and sweet, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Add the oats, season generously with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring all the while, for about 2 or 3 minutes, until the oats begin to take on a little color . Add the turkey stock or water, simmer about 7 minutes, cover and remove from the heat. Let rest for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Spoon the skirlie into the turkey and roast immediately.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the main cavity of the turkey and cook as usual. Serve the skirlie alongside the turkey.
  3. Variation:  Add 4 ounces chopped chicken or turkey liver to the butter and saute 1 minute before adding the oats. Just before stuffing the bird, fold in 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley, 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage and 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Garlic & Pine Nuts I made this stuffing for the first time when I was able to get true wild rice, hand-harvested in Minnesota. Whatever wild rice you use, cook it according to the instructions on the package.

For 1 small to medium turkey

  • 2 cups wild rice, cooked according to package directions and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried Zante currants, soaked in 1/2 cup sherry
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted, or 3/4 cup freshly roasted chestnuts, peeled and minced
  • 1 solid garlic bulb, outer skins removed
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons summer savory leaves, if available
  • 2 teaspoons sage leaves
  1. Put the cooked wild rice in a bowl and fluff it with a fork.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a medium frying pan set over medium heat, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Strain the soaking liquid off the currants and directly into the pan with the onions, increase the heat and simmer until reduced to just a tablespoon or so. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the stove and add to the bowl with the wild rice; add the currants and pine nuts.
  3. Bring a small saucepan half full with water to a boil; add a tablespoon of kosher salt.  Using the heel of your hand, press the garlic bulb against a hard surface to break the cloves apart.  Put the cloves into the boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, cool and remove the skins. Add the peeled garlic cloves, Italian parsley, thyme, savory and sage to the rice. Use two forks to toss gently. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the central cavity of the turkey and begin to roast immediately. After the turkey is cooked and has rested, spoon the dressing into a serving bowl and serve alongside the carved turkey.

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