Artichoke, Olive and Parmesan Stuffing
Lets face it, turkey just isn’t all that without the dressing. Without gravy, cranberry sauce, and dressing all you have is one dry, tough old bird. Is it any wonder that many of us think that the stuffing is the best part of the meal? For a memorable Thanksgiving meal the stuffing has to be epic! Apart from being tasty and comforting, one of my favorite things about dressing is the many ways it can be interpreted. I love a dressing that reflects family history and region. Mine always starts with one of my family favorite traditions, San Francisco sourdough bread. From this starting point I can and often do go in many directions. For years I relied on the seasoned sourdough bread cubes you can buy in the stores, but after a really bad experience with some stale cubes I switched over to cubing my own bread. I also gave up on stuffing the bird. I know that the dressing tastes better when it is cooked in the bird, but a stuffed bird takes longer to cook and there is only so much you can get in there in the first place. I never really knew what to do with a small bowl of “in the bird” stuffing and a large bowl of “out of the bird” stuffing. Sometimes I would mix the two, which only seemed to defeat the purpose. One time I tried to eat it all while I was carving the turkey but I ended up getting caught. Then there were the times I would put a bowl of each on the table and watch everyone fight over it (it would get ugly). So now I think it is just better to cook it out of the bird. It just makes it easier. There are a few tricks to making it just as moist and tasty as dressing cooked in the bird. As I was writing about in a previous post, I always spatchcock the turkey so I have the backbone along with the neck to make some really great stock. You can also buy some parts and make some stock beforehand. Using some tasty turkey stock is one way to get some really great dressing! You also need to start with some great bread. I am not a fan of pre-seasoned bread cubes; they don’t taste fresh and they are often stale. Lately I have been using Acme Sourdough. I love the flavor and its rustic, crusty exterior. The only other must haves in my stuffing are onions, celery, fresh herbs and Italian parsley; after that, anything goes. My usual standby is “Apple Sausage and Cranberry”, but this year I am feeling a little exotic so I am making “Artichoke Olive and Parmesan Stuffing.” I made it a few years ago and everyone liked it. However, I have to warn you, if you tinker with Thanksgiving dinner some people are going to object. Many of us are slaves to tradition, so tinker at your own risk. This year I am going commando, and making what Paul refers to as “a really California kind of stuffing.” So this is what I did.
- 1 Acme Sourdough Batard (about 16oz)
- 1 cube of butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium brown onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ teaspoon each, thyme and sage, minced
- 2 14 oz. cans artichoke heart, drained and chopped
- 6-8 jumbo jalapeño stuffed green olives, chopped
- 1-teaspoon salt
- ½-teaspoon black pepper
- 1-cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 2-2½ cups turkey stock
- Cut the batard into ¾-inch cubes, and spread them evenly on a cookie sheet and toast in a 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes until dry and lightly toasted. Remove and place in a large mixing bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and add garlic. Stir about a minute, and then add onions, celery, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat until they start to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the minced sage, thyme, artichoke hearts, and olives and stir. Continue cooking over a medium heat for about another 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from heat, and add this mixture to the bread along with the Parmesan cheese. Heat the stock to boiling, and add the chopped parsley and remaining butter until melted. Pour the buttered stock over your dressing and mix. Cover with some foil for about ten minutes, then taste and adjust as necessary for seasoning. You may want to add more stock depending on how moist you like your dressing. Place the dressing in a covered casserole dish. About 40 minutes before serving, place the covered dressing in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until heated through, removing the cover for the last 10 minutes. If the dressing is too dry or too moist you can correct it by adding more stock, and stirring, or alternately leaving the top off and leaving it the oven longer.
Using this bread/stock/butter ratio and the standard celery and onion combination as a base, you can make any dressing you like. When I am making my traditional standby dressing I use about 12 ounces of browned pork sausage, a couple of tart apples, peeled and sliced, a cup of dried cranberries, and a handful of pecans. The combinations are endless! I hope whatever you come up with will be tasty and give your friends and family something to talk about and remember for a long time.
So tell me, what are your favorite dressing ingredients?