Many will argue that the most important fixture at a Thanksgiving meal is the dressing rather than the bird. I am prone to agree as members of my family will often engage in rather heated debate over the “best” way to prepare dressing. I have no intention of raising Thanksgiving tensions any further but I have recently come across a couple of tips (Cook’s Illustrated on the Food Channel) that I felt were quite useful. In addition, I will share our traditional dressing recipe (sans meat or oysters) for those prone to making their own dressing rather than buying it at a grocery store.
Tips to Prepare Dressing
- We have long ago given-up cooking dressing in the cavity of the bird. Aside from being a chore that yields only a limited amount of dressing, some studies suggest that the undercooked drippings of the turkey can be harmful to your health. Why take the chance? As such, we prepare and cook the dressing separately.
- Yes, Sheila makes turkey stock by slow-cooking turkey wings and legs overnight using the same ingredients (but three times as much) described in GourMay’s recent recipe on chicken stock. (Editor’s Note: Most people will use chicken stock for Thanksgiving dressing, but it isn’t quite the same.)
- Our family prefers the dressing to be a bit drier than most and this is accomplished by removing the aluminum foil some 20 minutes before the end of baking and/or reducing the amount of stock that is added to the dressing.
- NEW TIP – You should slowly bake the bread pieces (about an hour at 250ºF to remove the moisture. Cook’s Illustrated has proven that it removes moisture far more effectively than the traditional way to let the bread harden on the kitchen counter for a couple of days.
- NEW TIP – Cook’s Illustrated rendered fat from turkey wings by poking holes in the wings and then browning them quickly on both sides (about 10 minutes) before setting the wings aside. They then sautéed the vegetables (see below) in the drippings with a couple of Tbs of butter. Most importantly, they placed the turkey wings on top of the dressing to allow more “natural” drippings to infuse the dressing while it baked. The dressing and turkey wings are covered in foil and returned to the oven to bake for about an hour.
GourMay’s Traditional Thanksgiving Dressing
- 12 Cups of bread cubes (if possible, 1/2 of which should be traditional unsweetened cornbread)
- 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 3 cups finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 Tbs poultry seasoning
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 Tbs salt
- 1 cup of turkey stock (add more if you want a “wetter” dressing). Note: The stock should only be added shortly before baking.
- The dressing maybe prepared a day or two earlier, but do not add the stock until shortly before baking.
- Saute onion and celery in butter. Combine with other ingredients (except the stock) and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Preheat oven to 325º
- Add turkey stock to dressing mixture, place in a casserole and cover with foil and bake for about an hour.
- Uncover for the last 20 minutes or so for a slightly crisper dressing.
Peace to you and your family this Thanksgiving.