Cook's Illustrated (November/December 2010)
Rather, we both come from dressing families, where a wet mixture of bread, stock and vegetables is poured into a dish and baked casserole-style.
We were up for the test.
So what's the secret to adding substantial turkey flavor to the stuffing?
Cooking the stuffing with browned turkey wings on top.
Cook's Illustrated gives three variations of this dressing: Sausage, Dried Cherries, and Pecans; Leeks, Bacon, and Apple; and Stuffing with Fresh Herbs. We opted for the sausage variation (are you surprised?).
When we wrote up our advice for how to plan a huge meal and not lose your mind, we referenced the fact that we had burned a dish that we had made for this meal. And this was it!
We didn't pay close enough attention to the stuffing while were juggling other dishes in the oven, and it blackened on bottom. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to taste and guests ate just about every bit that wasn't charred (and part of it that was!).
Because we overcooked the stuffing, we can't fairly judge this dish. From what we tasted, it was a really good stuffing. The explosion of turkey flavor didn't really come through for us, but maybe it will for you. Our guests said they liked the addition of cherries to the dressing, which was something most of us had never had before.
In general, our Thanksgiving hearts lie with cornbread dressings. They're what we grew up and what we crave at Thanksgiving.
What about you? Are you a dressing or a stuffing person? In or out of the bird? Let us know in the comments.
Serves 10 to 12
NOTE: Two pounds of chicken wings can be substituted for the turkey wings. If using chicken wings, separate them into 2 sections (it’s not necessary to separate the tips) and poke each segment 4 or 5 times. Also, increase the amount of broth to 3 cups, reduce the amount of butter to 2 tablespoons, and cook the stuffing for only 60 minutes (the wings should register over 175 degrees at the end of cooking). Use the meat from the cooked wings to make salad or soup.
2 pounds (20 to 22 slices) hearty white sandwich bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 16 cups)
3 pounds turkey wings, divided at joints (see photo) (see note)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound bulk pork sausage
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
3 celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 large eggs
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped fine
1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread bread cubes in even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until edges have dried but centers are slightly moist (cubes should yield to pressure), 45 to 60 minutes, stirring several times during baking. (Bread can be toasted up to 1 day in advance.) Transfer to large bowl and increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Use tip of paring knife to poke 10 to 15 holes in each wing segment. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add wings in single layer and cook until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip wings and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer wings to medium bowl and set aside.
Bread Stuffing with Leeks, Bacon, and Apple
Follow recipe for Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Dried Cherries, and Pecans, substituting ¾ pound bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces, for sausage. In step 3, cook bacon in skillet until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel–lined plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Proceed with recipe from step 4, substituting 2 leeks (white and light-green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced thin) for onion, 3 Granny Smith apples (peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice) for dried cherries, and omitting pecans.
Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs
Follow recipe for Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Dried Cherries, and Pecans, omitting sausage. After browned turkey wings have been removed from skillet in step 2, add 6 tablespoons butter to skillet and proceed with recipe from step 4, substituting 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves for dried cherries and pecans.