All About Stuffing
Stuffing holds a special place in my heart, because it’s always associated with a big table of happy, chatty relatives, second and third helpings – and copious amounts of wine, of course.
What’s great about stuffing is that it’s a super flexible dish. You can always take an existing recipe and make it your own with all your favorite herbs and ingredients. Try experimenting with new substitutions and unusual additions. You may discover a new family-favorite recipe in the process. (Just make sure to taste test ahead of time!)
A Brief History of Stuffing
A form of stuffing has been used to fill the cavity of many roasted animals since the time of the Roman Empire. These stuffings mainly consisted of vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts and spelt (an ancient grain), and organ meat such as liver. Since then the trend has spread worldwide with family recipes changing over time in many different cultures.
Different cultures prefer different ingredients, so while a North American stuffing often has a bread base, a Middle Eastern stuffing will be made with rice or minced meat, while a British stuffing can include sausage meat and dried fruits such as apricot.
Regardless, I won’t even touch the terminology debate: you can fight it out with your neighbors over whether it’s called “stuffing,” “dressing”, or “filling”.
Different Ways to Cook Your Stuffing
Wait, that’s why it’s called “stuffing,” right? Don’t you just stuff it inside your turkey?
That’s certainly one option. But let me offer two other options that I actually prefer: baking the stuffing in a separate dish, and skin-stuffing.
Baking the stuffing separately allows you to fully control the perfect cooking of the mixture. One issue with stuffing the cavity of your bird is that it’s hard to get the bird and stuffing cooked just right at the same time. Often the time needed to cook the stuffing inside the bird is much longer than that needed to cook the bird, which results in dry meat and undercooked stuffing – no good!
In a baking or casserole dish, you can spread out the stuffing to ensure even cooking, and you can even get a nice, crispy golden-brown top if you leave your dish uncovered for the last few minutes of cooking. If you opt for this method, be sure to add an extra half cup of stock or juice to your stuffing recipe to make sure it doesn’t dry out too much.
But my personal favorite is skin-stuffing. This requires you to leave the skin on your bird and loosen it gently so there’s space to spread a 1-inch layer of stuffing between the skin and meat on the top of the bird. This works best with a nice sticky sausage-based stuffing. Prepare to get your hands dirty with this one!