A stuffing to please any crowd

New York TimesNovember 26, 2013 

ADAPTABLE STUFFING

Stuffing made with mushrooms and bacon in New York, Oct. 31, 2013. Stuffing makes a moist and savory bed for gravy, which is exactly what everybody wants for the holidays.

ANDREW SCRIVANI — NYT

  • Regarding Stuffing or Dressing

    For extra flavor, add turkey skin: The major downside of baking the stuffing outside the bird (that is, preparing it as dressing) is the lack of all those good, fatty drippings you get when it’s cooked inside the cavity. But you can compensate for this by topping your stuffing with some extra turkey skin. The fat renders out of the skin, flavoring the stuffing. Then the skin itself becomes crisp, crackling and wonderfully baconlike. Just lay the skin on top of the stuffing and bake as your stuffing recipe directs. If the skin isn’t crisp when the stuffing is done, run it under the broiler for a few minutes to finish. You can often special-order turkey skin from your butcher. (Chicken skin will work, too.) Or when you are readying your turkey for the oven, trim off the extra skin at the neck and use that.

    How to stuff the turkey: If your family insists that you stuff the bird, follow these essential steps: You can prepare the wet ingredients and dry ingredients up to a day ahead. But don’t combine them until just before stuffing the bird. Stuff the cavity loosely, using about 3/4 cup for every pound of turkey. You can truss the stuffed bird, but you don’t need to. Just don’t overfill. Roast it immediately after it has been stuffed, at no lower than 325 degrees. Besides checking the meat temperature, make sure to also take the temperature from the middle of the stuffing. The magic number is 165 degrees, at which point you can be sure the stuffing is cooked through.

Discord swarms around the issue of stuffing. Should it be cooked in the bird or baked alongside, dressing-style? White bread or corn bread? Firm enough to slice, or as soft as pudding?

Call this recipe the peacemaker, because it’s adaptable enough to make everyone happy. You can use either white or corn bread (and gluten-free corn bread works perfectly). You can add more or less liquid to alter the texture. Since it’s flavored with both mushrooms and bacon, vegetarians can nix the meat without sacrificing all the flavor. And although we advocate for cooking it outside the bird (the top crisps and the turkey cooks faster), if you want to stuff, you can do that, too.

In all cases, this stuffing makes a moist and savory bed for the gravy, which is exactly what everybody wants.

Two-Way Stuffing with Mushrooms and Bacon 3 tablespoons melted butter, more as needed for greasing pan 1 1/2 pounds sliced white bread or corn bread 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon 2 large leeks, trimmed and sliced (3 cups) 1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided 2 tablespoons chopped sage 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, more as needed 1/4 cup apple cider, if using white bread 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 3 tablespoons melted butter

HEAT oven to 250 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Trim crusts from white bread and cut into 1-inch cubes; if using corn bread, coarsely crumble it. Spread bread pieces out on one or two large baking sheets. Toast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until very dry, about 30 minutes for white bread, 1 hour for corn bread. Transfer to a large bowl to cool. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees.

COOK bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. Add leeks to bacon fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are tender and most of their juices have evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Add wine and cook until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.

SPOON mushroom mixture over dried bread. Stir in stock. If using white bread, stir in cider. Add parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. The mixture should be moist and very soft. If you like your stuffing extremely moist, add enough stock to make it seem slightly soggy but not wet. (Think pudding.) Crumble bacon and stir it in.

TRANSFER mixture to prepared baking pan. Drizzle melted butter over the stuffing. Bake until golden, 35 to 45 minutes.

Note: Stuffing can be made up to two days ahead. Store in the fridge, then reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 25 to 35 minutes. If the top isn’t crunchy, run it under the broiler before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

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