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Monday, October 4

Stuffing - Not Just For Holidays!!

Most of us, when we think of old fashioned homemade stuffing, think in terms of special occasions, holiday dinners, etc.  Stuffing seems like it can be a time-consuming process (unless you are among the "cheaters" who use things like StoveTop...you know who you are...).  It's really not, though.  Homemade stuffing can be made pretty much any time, and it's not all that difficult to do.

Today, I'm going to offer you three versions...a sort-of homemade version of StoveTop (for those who prefer straight bread taste), a cornbread version (for the traditionalists), and for those who like a blend of flavors, a dual version, which is what I make for Thanksgiving.  Each has it's own time table.  The first version takes about one hour, the second about 2, the third...actually, I'm not sure, because when I make that one, I usually do it over a couple of days (not due to work involved, but because it actually takes me a week to make a Thanksgiving dinner...I work on similar things at one time). 

The basics for all 3 are similar...you've got your bread (whichever type), your veggies (celery, onion) and your chicken or turkey stock.  The variations, however, give each a VERY unique character!!

HOMEMADE STOVETOP STUFFING

9-10 loaf bread heel pieces (white or wheat, a combination of both is ideal)
3 tablespoons butter
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 a clove)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (if dried, about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can chicken broth/stock

As you reach the end of a loaf of bread, save the heels (end pieces).  Toast them, put them in a baggie, and freeze until needed.  When you have enough, thaw, and retoast a bit if needed to make sure they're dried out.  Dice the dried heels into 1/2 inch cubes.  You should have about 4 cups of bread cubes (if you're a little short, fill with regular bread done the same way).  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, saute' the celery, onions, and garlic in the butter for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add seasonings and chicken broth/stock, and bring to a boil.  Remove from stove, then put in your bread cubes.  Toss until all is coated, and cover with a small dishtowel for about 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork, and serve.  If it's a little dry, simply add a little boiling water until it's how you want.  Makes about 5-6 servings.

CORNBREAD STUFFING

2 cups white all purpose cornmeal (if you can't find all purpose, use self-rise, and eliminate baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, 2 melted, 2 softened
1 large egg, slightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste (optional
dash of Tabasco (optional)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth/stock
2 large eggs, boiled, chopped

Prepare your cornbread:
Preheat oven to 350.  If using a cast iron skillet to make your bread, let it preheat as well.  In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, baking soda (eliminate if using self-rise cornmeal), buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, salt, pepper, and Tabasco, if using...mix until thoroughly blended.  Pour into a baking dish (or cast iron skillet, if using), and bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned on top.  Let cool, and crumble.

In a 9x13 baking dish, mix crumbled  cornbread, celery, onion, sage and chopped boiled eggs.  Using chicken broth/stock, moisten the mixture (you don't want soupy, but you want it VERY moist), and bake in oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until nicely browned, and somewhat firm.  Makes about 6-8 servings.

TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY DRESSING
This recipe was my grandmother's...handed down from her great-grandmother who came here from Ireland in 1813.  Granny altered it slightly as times changed, hence the poultry seasoning & stuff.  Cherish it, folks...I know I certainly do!!

Corncake Recipe:
2 cups all purpose cornmeal (do NOT use self-rise)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
enough water to make it into a pancake batter consistency

Mix all ingredients, and make just like you were making pancakes.  Let cool; crumble, set aside (or refridgerate if making the next day).

10-12 slices white bread, toasted until dry, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large eggs, boiled, chopped
1-2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups (or more) chicken broth/stock

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine crumbled corncakes and bread cubes in large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

In large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add poultry seasoning and sage, and stir to distribute well.  Add chopped boiled eggs.

Mix the veggie mixture into the corncake/bread mix, stirring well to blend evenly.  Pour into your baking dish.  Using a large spoon, slowly stir in the chicken broth/stock, blending evenly, until mixture is rather soupy in consistency.  Cover tightly with foil, poke one hole for venting, and bake for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove foil, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until top starts to brown.  If it seems to be getting too dry, you can add a small amount of extra chicken broth/stock, but only a little at a time...true dressing should be reasonably firm. 

This CAN be assembled with everything except the broth/stock, then finished when ready...just refridgerate, then bring to room temp before adding the broth/stock and baking.  When I make this for Thanksgiving, I usually make the corncakes on Monday or Tuesday, put it together Wednesday afternoon, then add the broth/stock on Thursday morning and bake.  ENJOY!!!

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