For anyone that needs last-minute Thanksgiving stuffing support, this Cooks Illustrated recipe is simple, delicious and feeds a crowd. Cube some bread, saute some celery and onions, toss it all together with herbs and broth. You can make it a day ahead and stick it in the oven an hour before you want to eat. Super easy and saves you from the extra-salty stuffing mixes out there, many of which also have loads of MSG (aka autolyzed/hydrolyzed yeast extract) and preservatives. I also usually use light-textured whole wheat bread for a third to a half of the bread cubes, and no one ever knows the difference.
For those of you who don’t have sage, thyme and marjoram in your kitchens, Bell’s Seasoning (cute yellow cardboard box with a turkey on it) is an easy one-stop shop for stuffing herbs. It’s a combination of fine ground herbs (rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger and marjoram), and you can use it in place of the herbs in this recipe. I didn’t see it in the spice aisle of my local supermarket in Ohio, but my friend Jenny gave me a box of organic turkey herbs from Williams-Sonoma, which has sage, thyme and marjoram.
For anyone new to turkey roasting, it is easier and faster to cook the turkey unstuffed. The eggs in this recipe compensate for the extra moistness the stuffing would get inside the bird.
No step-by-step pictures for this one – maybe next year I’ll be more on the ball. But this recipe is really very easy.
Bread stuffing for a crowd
I find it easier to cook the turkey unstuffed – cooks faster and more predictably. This is stuffing at its simplest – bread, celery, onion, herbs, with enough broth to hold it together. The eggs in this recipe compensate for the moistness the stuffing would get cooked inside the bird. It’s important to dry the bread out ahead of time so that the broth and herbs can be absorbed into the bread cubes. Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, “Classic bread stuffing for a crowd,” February 2005.
- 3 pounds high-quality sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried (see step 1)
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 4 medium ribs celery, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium onions, minced (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
- 4 large eggs, beaten lightly
- Dry bread cubes ahead of time. To let them go stale naturally, leave out on rimmed baking sheets or put in a clean brown paper bags and toss occasionally. To dry in oven, place bread cubes on rimmed baking sheets and bake at 300 degrees F for 30 to 60 minutes. Let cool before using.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
- Add the dried, cooled bread, stock or broth to the vegetables and toss gently to distribute dry and wet ingredients evenly. Taste to adjust seasonings if necessary. Add beaten eggs and stir to mix. Turn mixture into buttered 15″x10″ baking dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until golden, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Herb shortcut: if you can find Bell’s Seasoning in your supermarket (a cute yellow box with a turkey on it), it’s a one stop shop of fine ground herbs (rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger and marjoram) that you can use in place of the sage, thyme and marjoram in the recipe. Add to taste, a tablespoon or so.
- I often use light-textured whole wheat bread for 1/3 or 1/2 the bread cubes (don’t do this with a dense, heavy bread). No one ever notices.
- You can substitute three 14-ounce bags of plain dried bread cubes for the homemade dried bread cubes, but you’ll need to increase the amount of chicken broth to 7 cups.
- This recipe can easily be halved and baked in a 13″x9″ baking dish for a smaller crowd.
- The stuffing can be assembled in the baking dish, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. To bake, let the stuffing stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and bake.
- Leave out the eggs if you want to cook the stuffing inside the turkey.
Here’s the link to a printable version: Bread stuffing for a crowd recipe for printing.
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