Friends, I can’t believe it: Thanksgiving is almost here. (Wasn’t it just the Fourth of July? I swear it was yesterday that I was freezing homemade popsicles and making batches of potato salad for summer picnics.)
But now November is creeping up on us, and I’m about to navigate one of foodies’ favorite—and most contentious—holiday foods: stuffing. I’m not sure there’s another American food that inspires such passion—whether you call it stuffing or dressing, whether it’s served inside the bird or out, whether you make it with white bread or cornbread. It’s all incredibly personal, and everyone has an opinion about it.
The word “stuffing” first came to be in the 16th century, although in the 19th century the stuffy Victorians decided they preferred the word “dressing,” so that term increased in popularity. Now the two are used interchangeably, and regional variations of the food itself have emerged: oyster stuffing is popular throughout the country, but many Southerners enjoy pecan, rice or cornbread stuffing. Italians often enjoy sausage in their stuffing, and dried fruit, potatoes and apples are prevalent in German variations. Some people actually stuff their dressing into the bird; some make it outside and serve it on the side.
The good news is that there’s a variety of stuffing options out there—both for the cook looking for to stay close to tradition and the cook who wants to branch out and try something different. Truly, the possibilities are endless. Why not try a Southwestern stuffing that’s filled with jalapeños and tamales and corn? (You can serve it with corn ships, salsa and sour cream and have it do double-duty as a side dish.) Or—yum—sourdough stuffing with balsamic-roasted red onions, sweet Italian sausage and sage? For another Southern twist, you could do bread stuffing with crawfish, bacon and collard greens. Or, if you want to stay traditional, how about a classic farmhouse herbed stuffing flavored with sage, rosemary and thyme?
You can find one of my favorite stuffing recipes below—while I’m still plotting my meal, I find that this one is always a classic. And be sure to share your favorite ways to dress your turkey with me in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating!
• 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
• 1 1/2 cups diced celery
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
• 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
• Salt and cracked black pepper
• 2 1/2 cups stale cornbread
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/4 cup chicken stock
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
• Cut pumpkin in half, and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin, and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
• In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, thyme, and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season, to taste, with salt and cracked black pepper.
• Meanwhile, crumble the stale cornbread into a large bowl. Add sautéed vegetables to the corn bread crumbs. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, beaten egg, and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.
Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes.