I love homemade stuffing. You know, turkey and dressing, pheasant and dressing; stuff like that. Although exceedingly popular during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, stuffing quickly becomes a never-to-be-seen food item during the rest of the year.
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. There is really no reason that dressing cannot be used as a main side dish during any of the cold weather months. Earlier this week, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t tasted any honest-to-goodness stuffing since last Thanksgiving. Since I’d currently had a wild turkey hanging in cold storage for the past nine days, I decided that it was high time – holidays or not -- to enjoy a fresh batch of turkey and dressing. Several hours later, the traditional pairing of roast turkey and homemade bread dressing turned out to be just what just what it always is – absolutely out of this world!
Love at first bite, the message to my taste buds was clear. Homemade stuffing isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. For those who currently have turkeys, waterfowl, or whole pheasants in the freezer, you might want to give this one a try sooner than later. Step by step, here’s how. Bear in mind that it’s a long time until next Thanksgiving.
Timing is critical. To bring everything to the table at once, homemade stuffing needs an hour’s long head start on the turkey. Preparing stuffing is one of the few times we employ the use of an electric crock pot. When it comes to this recipe, the crock pot can’t be beat. Although this power-packed meal is a slow cooker, it is also amazingly simple to prepare.
Homemade Turkey Dressing
1 whole [plucked] wild turkey
1 pound dried bread cubes
½ pound salted butter
½ pound fresh [dark or light] mushrooms
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
¼ to ½ cup chopped parsley
2 large eggs
30 – 35 oz. chicken broth
Fresh or dried sage – optional
Fresh cranberries – optional
Poultry seasoning -- optional
Step one: Combine butter, onion, celery, mushrooms, and parsley. Sauté in a heavy skillet until celery is tender.
Step two: In a separate bowl, whip eggs like a rented mule
Step three: Place bread cubes in large bowl. Add sautéed ingredients, eggs, poultry seasoning [to taste] and sage. Sage is a powerful seasoning; easy for some folks to overdo. I like to gather and dry fresh sage from the western Black Hills and, no matter long I store it, it tastes as fresh and ‘sagey’ as the day it was picked.
Once ingredients are blended, add broth and keep stirring until well mixed. More broth will mean a moister end product. Less broth will result in drier stuffing.
If using fresh cranberries, cut berries in half and add to mix. Cranberries add a unique and lively accent to home cooked dressing. If you’ve never tried them, I strongly suggest you give them a go. You won’t be sorry.
Step four: Lubricate inside of crock with vegetable spray and add dressing mix. Cover and cook on high setting for 45 minutes. From here on, it’s strictly hands off. Reduce heat to low setting and simmer for 4 ½ to 5 hours. Do not lift lid until you’re checking to see if dressing is done.
Step one: Bank beds of 25 or so Kingsford briquettes on two sides of a covered grill. To impart a slightly smokey flavor to your bird, presoak four or five good [3 to 4 inch] chunks of aged apple wood or hickory.
Step two: Bring chilled turkey to room temperature, or at least close. Wash, pat dry, and liberally rub bird with olive oil [oil is optional]. Season with your favorite poultry blend.
Step three: When charcoal hits peak temp, evenly distribute wood chunks atop coals and place turkey – breast up – in center of grill. Depending on size of bird, ambient temperature, wind and humidity; cooking times will normally run from about 1½ to 2 hours. Remove turkey as soon as juices turn light pink to clear. Let turkey rest for a few minutes, carve, and serve. Leftovers, if there are any, make delightfully nutritious, guilt free snacks.