Really, what other kind is there? The act of eating stuffing, by its very nature, is indulgent. Pouring gravy over bread is not an everyday occurrence in most of our lives, but it’s one for which I am REALLY thankful.
One year, when I lived in California and probably spent the day enjoying a yummy dinner with either my aunt and uncle’s family or my (not yet) in-laws, my parents made a trip up to Bellingham to visit my other aunt and uncle for Thanksgiving. Since my Bellingham aunt has perfect taste in food and my uncle is an incredible chef, hearing about this meal made me a little jealous. I remember zero details except that the stuffing had bacon and pine nuts. I knew I had to make something similar the following year, so I dug up an old Mark Bittman recipe which had appeared in Oprah’s magazine and tweaked it a bit. After everyone pretty much did this for the duration of the meal, the deal was sealed. This has been our Thanksgiving stuffing for eight (nine? ten?) years.
Stuffing is really easy. If you have a cast-iron skillet or a dutch oven, it’s a one-pot dish, after you do a little chopping. It’s difficult to mess up, taste-wise. You’re cooking bacon – BACON! – with some aromatics like onion, garlic, and thyme, adding wine, adding bread to soak it all up, mixing it with toasted nuts and seasoning, and baking it. Can’t go too far wrong there. And if you have whatever they call the opposite of the kitchen version of a green thumb… you get to pour gravy on top of it, so stop complaining and eat up.
What’s your Thanksgiving plan? I am going to share a meal this year with Joseph and Grandma Donna. We will play some games, and I’ll definitely watch White Christmas at night, per the demand of tradition, while texting favorite quotes to my east-coast-dwelling best friend.
Come over, if you want. We have table space, and here’s the menu at this point:
Leeks vinaigrette, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and fontina, brie and chive biscuits brought into my life by my dear friend Kristen of Rose City Table, Grandma’s five-star dinner rolls, onion confit, brussels sprouts gratin or perhaps blistered green beans or perhaps both, the famed stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, and multiple pies. Sparkling cider, wine, etc. It’s a ridiculous amount of food for three people, but it’s okay. We’ll eat Thankgiving food and do some resourceful leftovering for a week. I am already looking forward to seven-spice turkey-veggie-coconut soup on Black Friday.
Want a killer stuffing recipe? Here you go:
Bacon nut stuffing (adapted from Mark Bittman)
1 lb bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (pastured bacon is best, for the Vitamin D and out of kindness to the pig)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 C dry white wine (you can substitute chicken or vegetable broth if you have to)
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 C fresh bread, chopped (normally contraindicated in stuffing lore, I consider an artisan sourdough loaf a MUST for this stuffing)
1 C pine nuts, toasted in a pan
2 t fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook bacon in a large, cast-iron skillet or a dutch oven over medium heat, until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and crumble it to your desired bite size.
After removing some of the fat from the pan, if you feel like the bacon produced an excessive amount, cook the onion until it has softened. Add the wine and allow it to simmer for three minutes or so. Take the pan off the stove and fold in the rest of the ingredients.
You can stick the cast-iron or dutch oven directly into a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes (or transfer to a glass baking dish for its journey to doneness), or pack it into a large turkey to bake with the bird. We always spatchcock our turkey, and bake the stuffing separately.
Enjoy it so much – you won’t be able to help yourself – and have a very happy Thanksgiving!