Martha Stewart Living (November 2013)
Pears are popular this time of year with food magazines.
They pop up in just about every course of suggested Thanksgiving menus. In this year's Thanksgiving index, you'll see pears in gravy, on turkeys, in soups and, of course, littered through desserts.
And then there's sausage. Oh, sausage.... We are suckers for a Thanksgiving stuffing that includes pork products. We've certainly made plenty of them over the years.
So when we saw Sausage Pear Stuffing in Martha Stewart Living, it was a slam dunk. We immediately added the dish to our Fakesgiving menu.
Little did we know we were boarding the train to Blandville.
It is a completely fine stuffing, a competent recipe, and one that uses ingredients that we love. But ours turned out with little flavor. It's very bready, and none of the flavors necessarily overcome the bread. Granted, we used a whole grain loaf here (the recipe calls for a loaf of "day-old rustic bread, dark, hard crusts removed") and it's obvious from the photo below that they used a white loaf. But we would expect a wheat loaf to add more flavor, not less.
Interestingly, our pears remained crisp after we baked the stuffing. We had used firm, Bosc pears, as the recipe suggests. The crispy pears weren't a turnoff, but we expected them to soften and sweeten the dish.
What else would have "fixed" this stuffing for us? Perhaps a sausage with more flavor, something other than mild Italian sausage. Perhaps we should have gone heavier on the leeks. Or perhaps we needed more herbs.
This stuffing is fine. It really is.
We just don't think it's special enough for your Thanksgiving table.
Prep: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Notes from Zach and Clay:
This recipe instructs you to cook this stuffing inside the turkey, but since we weren't cooking a traditional bird, we cooked ours in a buttered baking dish. We also opted for a whole wheat loaf for a more rustic feel.
1 loaf day-old rustic bread, dark, hard crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for baking dish
1 1/2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 small leeks, trimmed, thinly sliced into half-moons, and rinsed well (about 3 cups)
3 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 large fennel bulb, chopped (about 2 cups)
12 to 14 ounces firm-ripe Bosc or Anjou pears (about 3), chopped (about 3 cups)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 cups Turkey Stock
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisped but not golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool. In a 14-inch straight-sided skillet (or 2 large skillets), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks, celery, fennel, and pears; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables and pears are softened and start to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in rosemary and sage.
Meanwhile, cook sausage in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally and breaking into large crumbles, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Stir into vegetable mixture, then transfer to a large bowl. Add bread cubes and toss well. Drizzle stock over mixture, add eggs and parsley, and toss to combine well. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Use 10 cups stuffing to fill bird; place remainder in a buttered 8-inch-square baking dish. After turkey is out of oven, bake at 350 degrees until heated through and top is browned, 40 to 45 minutes.