Every Thanksgiving I cherish a vivid childhood memory of making stuffing with Mom. After all, this special occasion only happened once a year. Helping Mom with the dinner prep had two advantages. First, getting the turkey quickly in the oven meant the rest of our day was free for outdoor playtime. The rest of the day’s activities was on hold until the turkey was ready for roasting. My parents held Thanksgiving dinner in the early evening to allow for a full day of being outside. Traditionally, we either hiked along the Marin Headlands, or played touch football at Cronkite Beach. None of that was going to happen until the turkey was prepped, stuffed, and then popped in the oven. Not even breakfast.
Mom made a standard stuffing and it was delicious. Any little helpers got to “taste test” the mix, just to make sure the seasoning was perfect. Nowadays, the FDA discourages consuming food with raw eggs, but in the 60’s and 70’s no one thought about it. I loved her uncooked stuffing just like I love eating raw cookie dough. Together we mixed the stuffing, then tasted it a couple of times, “Just to be sure.” Slyly, I sneaked in as many nibbles as I could get away with. With the savory flavors from rich stock and aromatics cooked in gobs of butter, what’s not to like?
Fast forward to 2017, the spirit of my childhood Thanksgiving’s traditions is ever-present, especially when I make stuffing for our holiday turkey. Faithfully, I work to replicate the flavor memory of Mom’s stuffing. It is not as easy as it sounds because my stuffing is an entirely different beast. As a small seasonal side business, Joe bakes delicious sourdough bread. His bread is my staple ingredient, along with homemade stock and lots of add-ins.
I have nothing against the store-bought bread cubes. They make consistent and delicious stuffing. Yet, I have a freezer full of Joe’s Dough Artisan Bread, and I believe you use what you got. To be honest, it is more challenging using artisan bread for stuffing, and the results are less consistent. My theory is, the airier the bread the less stock you need. To get consistent results, it is more important to pay attention to how the bread soaks up the stock, then religiously follow a recipe. The first few times I made stuffing with Joe’s bread, the stuffing was either too wet or too dry. It took me several tries to figure it out. Fortunately, my mistakes and some extra research taught me a few tricks.
Three tricks for successful stuffing
First, when toasting the bread cubes in the oven, don’t let them get too brown. They should be just starting to brown. You are not making croutons here, just drying out bread for stuffing. The browner the bread the less stock it absorbs. It seems counter intuitive, yet keep the bread cubes light in color, but completely dried out.
The second and third tricks are interconnected. Add the stock in stages and give the bread mixture time to absorb it. At first, add half the stock then let it rest 10 minutes. Then, gently toss it about and see how wet it looks. This wait period makes a huge difference in understanding how much stock you need. I remember the first time I made stuffing with Joe’s Dough Bread, I only used half the stock required in the recipe because the bread cubes appeared to be swimming in stock. Unfortunately, the stuffing baked very dry and I was disappointed. Had I waited a few minutes, I would see the bread soak up the stock. Artisan bread has its own temperament that varies from day-to-day and year to year, no matter how consistent the baker is.
If you like your stuffing on the wet side, add more stock. If you want your stuffing moist but not wet, add less stock. Keep in mind how dense your bread is as well. I am still testing this theory, but the denser the bread the more stock you need. It takes some time to figure everything out, but eventually you will get to know the look and feel of the bread and stock ratio to get consistent results.
Do you need a gluten-free pie for Thanksgiving? Try Double Coconut Pie.
Great appetizer idea for Thanksgiving: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways
If you looked at stuffing recipes from around the country, you would see regional food trends and traditions. Each region uses ingredients that are abundant in their local area and lifestyle. I have a freezer full of bread, so it is my choice for stuffing. Additionally, in the Hudson Valley locally grown apples are easy to come by, and I love their sweet taste with savory herbs and aromatics. Other regions use local ingredients that are abundant in their area, like corn, oysters, sausage, wild rice, or cranberries.
Stuffing is so easy to adapt to suit your personal preference. If you want sausage, add about one pound of crumbled cooked sausage or bacon. Substitute fennel for the apples, or dried cranberries or raisins. You can also omit the apples altogether. If you do add dried fruit, soak it in some apple cider to soften it up. Also, leeks are a great substitute for onions, or use a combination of the two. Anything goes, just adjust the amount of ingredients accordingly.
In my opinion, Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without stuffing. I love it paired with gravy and cranberry sauce. The turkey may be the centerpiece of the meal, but I think it is the foundation for all the bright and savory flavors of the other side dishes. It’s all good.
My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
- 1 1/2 lb (750 g) loaf artisan quality bread*
- 10 TB (141 g) butter divided, plus more for greasing pan
- 12 oz (350 g) mushrooms, sliced
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 4 celery stalks finely chopped
- 2 tsp Kosher salt divided**
- 1 large crisp apple like Granny Smith chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
- 4 stems of parsley roughly minced
- 6 sage leaves minced
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme minced
- 3 eggs
- 3-4 cups (up to 1 liter) vegetable, chicken or turkey stock**
Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.
Slice the bread in even one-inch slices, then tear each slice into pieces smaller than an inch. Divide and lay the torn bread evenly across two rimmed sheet pans. Place in the oven and bake until dry, but not browned, for about 25 - 30 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom half way through the baking time and turn the bread pieces over. It is ok if it the bread cubes turn very slightly brown. When done, remove the toasted bread cubes from the oven and cool. Once cool, slide the bread into a large mixing bowl. If making ahead of time, store in an air tight container for a couple of days, or freeze up to one month.
Raise the oven temperature to 350°F / 175°C and move the rack to the middle position. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. (More surface area gives you more crispy pieces on top.)
Melt 2 TB (28 g) butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released and evaporated. Remove to a small bowl or plate and reserve for later.
Add the remaining 8 TB of butter (1/2 cup / 113 g) to the skillet. Once melted add the chopped onion and celery. Stir to coat. Season with up to 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh ground pepper. Cook the onions and celery until they are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and chopped apples and cook until the apples are starting to get tender and no liquid is in the skillet, about 5 minutes. The vegetables should be very tender, but the apples still have some bite left in them.
Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until wine has evaporated.
Turn off the heat then add the prepared herbs to the cooked vegetables. Add the vegetable mixture to the toasted bread cubes and gently toss together. Let the mixture sit and cool for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 cups (500 ml) of the stock.
Add the stock mixture to the bread. Add 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, (if your stock is salty add less), and 1 tsp fresh ground pepper. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Let the stuffing mixture sit and absorb all the stock for 10 - 15 minutes. Give the stuffing a good toss to help the stock get absorbed in the bread.
Slowly add the remaining stock, as needed, to the stuffing mixture a cup (250 ml) at a time. Stir to get evenly mixed. Let the stuffing rest for a few minutes and stir again. Add more stock as needed. This rest time allows the bread to soak up the stock. Let it rest a few minutes more if more stock needs to get absorbed.
Pour the stuffing into a prepared baking dish. Cut off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking dish and smear butter over the dull side. Cover the stuffing with foil, butter side down, and bake in the oven until the stuffing is hot all the way through. Instant read thermometer should read 160°F (71 °C), 30-40 minutes.
When the stuffing is cooked all the way through, remove the foil and turn the oven temp up to 425°F (220°C). Bake the stuffing until golden brown, and crispy on top, about 30 minutes more.
Stuffing can be made one day ahead up to the first half of baking. Toast the top of the stuffing after you reheated the stuffing, before serving. Keep in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to two days or freeze up to one month.
* The amount of stock you need will vary depending on the type of bread you use. Use your discretion to determine the total amount of stock. **If you use store bought stock, look for low salt or no salt stock.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Everyone has their favorite food during the holidays. They are so important, if for some reason this special food was not on the menu, their holiday is not complete. I think it is obvious, Turkey is high on the list. It is however an unspoken agreement. Have you ever heard anyone speaking longingly for the roast Turkey when they reminisce about the holidays? No. Yet, the turkey sandwiches made with the leftover turkey is high on the to die for list. For me, I have more than one holiday food favorite, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. Not the green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned fried onions, but fresh quickly blanched green beans and layered with caramelized oven roasted onions.
With all the rich food piled high on your plate, something fresh and green helps balance everything out. It may even lighten the food load enough to believe you have room for seconds. Or, is that just wishful thinking? A crisp salad will provide a fresh alternative, but it is not high on the priority list. People want room on their plate and stomach for all the Thanksgiving side dishes, and salad usually does not make the cut. By the end of the meal, I always have half of the salad leftover.
On the other hand, there is always room for bright and crisp green beans with roasted onions. It satisfies people’s appetite in two ways. The roasted onions satiate any rich and indulgent cravings because of caramelized onions. Plus, the green beans provide a bright taste to counter all the oven roasted foods. The other bonus, by the end of the meal there are none leftover.
Traditional green bean casserole is not high on my ‘Must Have” list. I did not grow up with green bean casserole as part of my childhood Thanksgiving meal and therefore don’t crave it. I also have a slight aversion to anything made with cream of mushroom soup. During my childhood, canned soup was an ingredient in half of mom’s dinners. At that time, during the 50’s and 60’s, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup was the secret ingredient in most foods. It was the quick and easy answer to making a béchamel sauce. In my opinion, Thanksgiving dinner requires green beans, and blanched green beans with roasted onions is the perfect substitute for this traditional casserole.
Making green beans with roasted onions requires a two-step process. Both are easy to do, plus you can make the onions up to two days in advance. The most involved part is roasting the onions. The onions are cooked in two stages. First, I roast the onions in the oven. Then, I deglaze the pan and add the pan juices to the onions and cook down the liquid. This two-step process develops roasted onions with a deep caramel color and flavor. The other benefit is, in comparison to the traditional roast caramelized onion method, the roasting time is cut in half.
More Thanksgiving vegetable sides: Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms
You can make the green beans at the last minute, then season with butter or olive oil, and herbs. I love tarragon with green beans, but it competes with the traditional Thanksgiving herbs of sage, rosemary and thyme. Fresh parsley is a good substitute because it brings a fresh taste and pairs well with the other foods. A light garnish of lemon zest is a nice touch, but not necessary because red wine vinegar is added in the roasted onions.
This is a throwback recipe I originally got from Bon Appétit Magazine in November of 1995. It was a recipe in a story about Thanksgiving Menu ideas from around the country. I believe green beans with roasted onions comes from a New England Thanksgiving based on the other food items on the menu. I slightly changed the recipe by omitting the sugar, deglazing the pan, and lowering the oven temperature for roasting the onions. It is a timeless recipe and I also appreciate the ease of preparation.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hope over the course of the month I will post additional recipes for my two other “must have” Thanksgiving sides, cranberry sauce and stuffing. If you were to ask my children what their Thanksgiving favorite food is, they would say “It’s not Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter, without Pineapple Stuffing.”
Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions
- 6 medium sized onions
- 3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil plus more for the green beans
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups 500 ml of water or vegetable stock
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- 3 lbs 1.5 k fresh green beans
- 3 TB of chopped parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- If you prefer substitute 2 TB of butter instead of the olive oil to coat the green beans.
Prepare the onions
Arrange the oven rack to the upper and lower thirds of your oven
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6
Lightly spray two large sheet pans with cooking spray
Peel and slice each onion into 12 wedges
Spread the onion slices evenly between the two sheet pans and drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt and a couple of rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Toss the onions with your hands to get them evenly coated with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the onions are nicely browned, about 45 minutes or longer. While the onions are roasting check them every 15 minutes and turn them over with a spatula so they evenly brown. Half way through, rotate the pans top to bottom. Watch and make sure the onions do not burn.
Remove the onions from the oven and slide them into a skillet or saucepan. Place one sheet pan over two burners set to medium-high heat and add 1 cup (250 ml) of water or vegetable stock. Deglaze the pan. Use a flat bottom wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits on the sheet pan and bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the liquid to half a cup (125 ml). Pour the liquid into the pan with the onions. Deglaze the second sheet pan.
Add the deglazed liquid to the onions and turn the heat to medium. Simmer the onions until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the red wine vinegar. Stir to mix. If you are making the onions in advance, don't add the vinegar yet. Cool the onions and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Just before serving, heat the onions in a microwave then add the vinegar.
Prepare the green beans
While the onions are roasting, clean and trim off the stems of the green beans. Set a large stock pot filled part way with water on a burner over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water, then add the green beans. Stir to submerge all the green beans. Cook the green beans for one to two minutes. Drain the green beans from the water and add them back into the pot. Drizzle olive oil, or 2 TB of butter, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt over the green beans. Toss to coat. Taste and correct for seasoning. Add chopped parsley and toss.
Put the blanched green beans in a serving bowl or platter and arrange the warmed onions in the middle of the green beans. Serve immediately.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
In many cultures, bread is symbolic for life and sustenance. If there is bread in the house, no one will go hungry. Bread has symbolic meanings in different religions as well. Throughout Europe, Easter bread symbolizes new life and served at breakfast on Easter morning. The history of Easter bread goes back hundreds of years and is enjoyed during a meal at the end of Lent.
Sweet Easter Bread
For the Dough
- 2/3 cup / 150ml whole milk
- 5 Tbs / 70g granulated sugar- divided
- 1 3/4 tsp / 1/8oz / 6g active dry yeast
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 3/4 cups / 405 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp / 3 g Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup 10 stick / 113g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tb / 23 g melted butter
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange optional
- 1/2 tsp of ground anise or fennel pollen optional
- Poppy Seeds for decorating optional
- 1 egg plus 2 teaspoons of water mixed (for egg wash)
For the decorative eggs
- 5-6 large eggs
- Food coloring of your choosing
Make the Dough
Heat the milk in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measure in the microwave until the milk reaches 110-115F (43-46C). (Can also heat the milk on the stove in a small sauce pan). Start at 30 seconds and check the temperature of the milk and add 10 seconds until you reach the desired temperature. You do not want it hotter than 115C because the higher temperature will kill the yeast.
Gently stir in 1 tablespoon (13g) of the sugar, and the yeast into the milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The milk should get foamy from the yeast. (If the milk does not get foamy your yeast is not active).
Melt the butter and let cool.
Whisk the eggs into the milk and add the cooled melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 4 Tb (58g) sugar, all-purpose flour, and Kosher salt, orange zest (optional), and ground anise or fennel pollen (optional). Mix together with a whisk or fork to get the ingredients evenly combined. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
On low speed, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix to get the ingredients combined. Stop and scrape the bowl when necessary. About one minute. Turn the speed up to medium high and mix for 5 minutes until the dough gets soft and silky.
Brush the insides of a medium mixing bowl with the remaining half tablespoon of melted butter. Add the bread dough into the bowl and butter the tops and sides of the dough with the remaining butter. Turn the dough around in the bowl to get a good coating of butter all over it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter in a warm spot until it doubles in size, for 1 1/2 hours up to 2 hours.
The dough can be made ahead up to the point of the first rising. Refrigerate the dough, then when ready, rest the dough at a warm spot on the counter and let it rise for 2 1/2 hours.
Color your eggs according to the directions of your food coloring. You do not need to hard boil the eggs first, just be careful not to crack any eggs while you are coloring them. The eggs will cook in the oven while the bread is baking. Refrigerate your decorated eggs until you are ready to use them.
Assemble the bread
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide the dough into three equal pieces.
Lightly sprinkle flour over your work surface and dust your hands with flour.
Roll each piece of dough into long tapered ropes about 16 inches (41cm) long. If your dough is springing back and not lengthening, cover the strands with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Arrange the strands lengthwise across the sheet pan and pinch the top of the strands together. Loosely braid the dough. Drape the outer left strand over the middle strand, then drape the outer right strand over the (new) middle strand. Repeat alternating the left and right outer strands until you are at the bottom. Pinch the bottom strands together and secure. Tuck the eggs between the braided strands down the middle of the bread. The eggs will slide out if they are too close to the sides of the bread. Loosely cover the bread with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for 45 min - 1 hr. The bread will puff up but not double in size.
Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack to the middle position, and if you have a baking stone place it on the middle rack. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 175C/ Gas Mark 4. When baking bread, I like to preheat my oven for an hour. I believe the temperature is more even and accurate.
After the final rise, whisk together one egg with 2 tsp water and brush the bread with the egg wash. Avoid getting the egg wash on the eggs. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using, and place the sheet pan with the bread on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 190F (88C).
Take the bread out of the oven and slide it with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. After 5 minutes remove the parchment paper. Can be served warm or room temperature.
The bread can be made the night before serving for breakfast, 8 hours in advance. After 8 hours, the eggs might start to turn bad. The bread will be fine for a couple of days, but not the eggs.