Thanksgiving was my late husband’s favorite holiday. His must-haves included turkey (whole, not a breast because leftovers were mandatory for soup, hash, sandwiches, my mom’s turkey casserole …), buttery mashed potatoes, pecan pie and a Friendly’s Jubilee Roll.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving dinners were small and intimate — I had one paternal uncle and one material aunt and her husband, and no cousins. Guy, on the other hand, was used to large celebrations that included dinner at his parents’ home followed by dessert at his sister’s home. A few years after our marriage, we took over the Thanksgiving feast and found ourselves doing a pas de deux in our galley kitchen making dinner for 14 people. As we lost members of the older generation, we found ourselves hosting fewer and fewer people, and about 15 years ago, we began celebrating with our close friends and their extended family.
As weird as it sounds, one of our first tumbles in our holiday dance concerned what stuffing to make. I was raised on Pepperidge Farm stuffing, doctored a bit to enhance the flavor. Guy, on the other hand, was raised on totally homemade stuffing, sausage or meat for the turkey and oyster stuffing for a side dish. The sausage stuffing won and we adapted a recipe cut from a magazine that became our go-to.
Stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that I was going to dinner at my daughter-in-law’s brother’s house with all their family, I had a few Thanksgiving traditions to fulfil. I made two squash and apple casseroles — one for my friends I would normally have dinner with and one to take with me for dinner with the in-laws. I made two French Canadian tourtieres, just because it’s a Button thing to have them the night before or after Thanksgiving. I made a pecan pie as a surprise for my son. And because all that cooking was so much fun, I decided to make sausage stuffing. I brought half with me for my son and daughter-in-law — and selfishly kept half in my refrigerator for future reference, like dinner the night I got back home. It’s sooo good.
It’s too late for your Thanksgiving turkey, but Christmas is coming — and it’s great anytime. You can double the recipe and add anything else you’d like (mushrooms, peppers and pecans) or swap half of the bread out for cornbread ... It’s pretty versatile. And, of course, it can be cooked inside a turkey. This recipe is enough for about a 12-pound bird.
12 ounces bulk pork sausage
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 large)
1/2 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
10 cups dry white bread cubes
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth
In a large skillet brown sausage over medium heat; drain. Remove from skillet; set aside.
In the same skillet cook onion and celery in hot butter over medium heat until tender; set aside.
In a large bowl combine bread cubes and corn bread, if using it. Add cooked sausage and onion mixture, poultry seasoning, black pepper. Drizzle with enough broth to moisten (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups), tossing lightly to combine. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole. Bake, covered, in a 325 F oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through.