Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Prep and Stuffing

11/26/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day! Hopefully you have efficiently posted tomorrow’s menu on the refrigerator to whet everyone’s appetite for the big day’s dinner. And don’t forget to double check your shopping list to make sure that no ingredients were left behind on that expensive trip to the grocery store. Now, if everything else is in order, you’re ready to cook.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a busy day for cooks. I like to prepare as many foods in advance as possible. First thing in the morning I whip up the cranberry gelatin salad and put it in the outside frig. After that, I get the dough working for yeast rolls. This year I’m trying pumpkin rolls. Then I spend a couple of hours baking pies.

While the pies are baking I decide and pull out of the cupboards my table cloths, cutlery and even serving dishes. I also gather up the condiments that I’m going to use and place them on one shelf in the refrigerator: butter, jam, olives, whipped cream, coffee etc.

Turkey is our main course and I don’t mess with it the day before. Just make sure that it’s at least partially thawed before you clean and stuff it. Technically, you can roast a frozen turkey but I’ve never done it. Fresh turkeys are usually larger and the tastiest birds but this year, for our small gathering I purchased a frozen one.

Although we are advised not to stuff turkeys (or any meat) in advance, I do prepare my stuffing ingredients the day before. It’s so much easier to get all of that chopping and dicing finished in advance. Once the ingredients are assembled, I cover and refrigerate them. That way they’re ready to go the next morning.

Technically, it is not necessary to stuff your turkey. However, dressing is my favorite part of meal! It not only tastes good but it delicately flavors the turkey and helps it retain its natural juices. Just remember to stuff the cavity lightly to allow for expansion.

My grandmother’s farm-style southern dressing recipe was simply delicious. She was not a fancy cook and never even considered adding meat, fruit or nuts to her dressing. Her recipe was a simple cornbread based dish but I have never been able to completely duplicate it. So here’s a secret — I cheat!

I use a box of Mrs. Cubbison’s cornmeal stuffing and add an equal amount of homemade cornbread plus sautéed onions, celery, poultry seasoning and a small amount of chicken broth to moisten the mixture. I don’t have an exact recipe but I’ve made an effort to reconstruct it here. I’m also including a couple of other stuffing recipes that are as delicious with chicken and pork as with turkey.

Well, it’s time to get cooking. So whether you stuff or dress your turkey, Happy Thanksgiving!

Betty’s Cornbread Dressing

1 box Mrs. Cubbison’s Cornbread Stuffin’ Mix
1 recipe cornbread (not sweet) prepared & baked in advance
3/4-1 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 cups onion, diced
1-1/2 cups celery, sliced in moons
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Cut cornbread into small cubes and combine with stuffing mix in large bowl; sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Set aside. Melt butter in skillet and sauté onion and celery until translucent. Add broth to skillet and pour liquid over dry ingredients. Stuffs one 10-pound turkey with some leftovers.

Note: This may be a little drier consistency than you’re used to having. It will be just perfect when baked but add more liquid if you like. Play with this recipe until it suits your family’s tastes. If your family likes raisins and nuts, throw them in and see what happens.

Cranberry Apple Stuffing

1/2 cup butter
2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 tart apples, cored and chopped
1-1/4 cups dried cranberries
1 teaspoon fresh grated orange peel
4 cups unseasoned dry bread cubes
1 cup chicken broth

Place bread cubes in a large bowl and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Sauté celery and onion until translucent. Remove from heat. Add apples, spices, cranberries and orange peel.
Pour fruit mixture over bread cubes and toss; add chicken broth and mix lightly. Use to stuff 10-12 pound turkey; truss, place in baking pan and roast, following directions on turkey wrapper.

Water Chestnut Turkey Stuffing
Sun Luck Foods

3/4 cup onions
3/4 cup celery
1/2 cup water chestnuts
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cooking wine (may substitute water or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons cup soy sauce

Separately chop water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, onions and celery; set aside. Combine broth, wine and soy sauce; set aside. Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Cook onions and celery for one minute. Add water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and mushrooms; continue cooking for one minute. Add liquid mixture. Turn off heat and add seasoned stuffing mix. Stuff turkey and roast according to package directions.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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