While stuffing is something we typically make at Thanksgiving, and rarely after that, this is one you might want to consider trying over the next couple of months. Instead of waiting until next year, think New Years… Or a special “chase-the-winter-blues-away” house party… Or pairing with a chicken dinner instead of turkey.
The key here is using ordinary sandwich bread “staled” in a low oven to soak up more liquid and make for a better-tasting bread stuffing recipe. It’s best to buy a freshly made whole loaf from your local supermarket bakery, then cut it down to about 11, 1/2-inch slices yourself, and cubed after that. (If in a pinch, yes you could use pre-sliced.)
In addition to replacing the aromatic onion with leeks, this Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs recipe includes plenty of herbs—and not of the dried persuasion. Perhaps you might want to even add a dose of fresh rosemary along with the thyme, sage and parsley. And you know that using homemade stock/broth makes all the difference too, generating a wonderful depth of flavor not found in boxed or canned varieties.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room—or in this case, the bird (turkey or chicken). To stuff or not to stuff? Using this method, you don’t have to stuff yet still benefit from all of those flavorful juices from the poultry. Breaking down the turkey before roasting allows every part to cook evenly in less than two hours. (Times would need to be adjusted if cooking a chicken.)
Start by deconstructing the bird—the Julia Child’s way “The Re-assembled Roast Turkey”—detaching the leg quarters, boning the upper part and then trussing the thighs. Next remove the backbone (use, along with neck and wingtips) to make homemade stock. Be sure to brine the breast for 6, and up to 12 hours, which keeps it nice and juicy while roasting. (Ours brined for 12 hours then sat, uncovered, in the fridge until ready to start cooking.)
Roast the breast first at 450°F, placed skin side down in an oven-safe skillet, a 30-minute head start and to brown the skin. Mound the stuffing in a roasting pan, placing the partially cooked breast and leg quarters on the stuffing. Reduce the heat down to 350°F after 30 minutes, until turkey (or chicken) is done—about 40 minutes longer for a 14-lb. bird. This method cooks the turkey in about half the time compared to a whole bird.
Just a quick mention about the Homemade Turkey Stock. Use all of the innards (except the liver), the wingtips, neck and back bones from the deconstructed turkey, along with additional parts bought from a Farmer’s or Asian Market. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet with some carrots and onion, and roast in a hot oven until nicely browned.
Finish in a pressure cooker with 4 quarts of water, garlic cloves and celery stalks and leaves. The BEST stock ever! It comes out pretty concentrated so you can dilute it with more water and set aside for Turkey and Vegetable Soup.
Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs
- 2 loaves (2 lbs.) unsliced hearty white bread, cut down to 22 slices total, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tsp. vegetable oil
- 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish
- 2 large leeks, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
- 4 celery ribs plus some of the leaves, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 ½ cups homemade turkey/chicken broth
- 3 large eggs
- 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250°F. 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.
- Heat butter in skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes.
- Add thyme, sage, and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add 1 cup broth and bring to simmer, using wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan.
- Add vegetable mixture to bowl with dried bread and toss to combine.
- In medium bowl, whisk eggs, remaining 1½ cups broth, and remaining 1½ teaspoons salt.
- Add egg/broth mixture and parsley to bread mixture and gently toss to combine.
- Roast the turkey breast first at 450°F, placed skin side down in an oven-safe skillet, a 30-minute head start and to brown the skin.
- Meanwhile, mound the stuffing in a roasting pan, placing the partially cooked breast and leg quarters on the stuffing. Reduce the heat down to 350°F after 30 minutes, until turkey (or chicken) is done—about 40 minutes longer for a 14-lb. bird.
- Remove bird off of stuffing, and with a spatula, stir stuffing well, scraping up any browned bits.
- Let rest on a cutting board for 30 minutes.
- Redistribute stuffing over bottom of roasting pan, return to oven, and turn off the oven while the turkey rests.
- Carve the bird as desired, garnish the platter with more fresh herbs. Spoon the stuffing into a covered bowl and serve immediately with other side dishes.
Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated