If You Make One Thing for Thanksgiving

make this stuffing

Hello and welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter. For the full Thanksgiving video/menu breakdown, head HERE. If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:

Welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter! Today it’s STUFFING, a.k.a. the reason to participate in the holiday in the first place, some might say, the reason to live in the first place. Someone asked me “why don’t I eat stuffing year-round? Good question, since it is arguably a perfect food (it’s the celery, love!). But we don’t, so relish the opportunity to take an entire loaf of crusty bread, toss it with white wine-soaked vegetables and lots of butter and bake it until it’s soft and custardy on the inside and crispy-crunchy on the outside.

THINGS TO KNOW WHEN MAKING STUFFING (I’ll keep this short and sweet because I address most of the FAQ’s in the video!):

THE BREAD: tear, never cut your bread (think the texture of english muffin nooks and crannies vs. sliced white bread). any crusty loaf of bread works: ciabatta, sourdough, miche, campagne loaf, etc. Also, yes: you can dry the bread out in a 325° oven if you didn’t have time to tear it 24 hours in advance.

THE VEGETABLES: One person remarked that it seems like a LOT of vegetables for one pound of bread, and they are correct! It is a lot of vegetables for one pound of bread, but it’s also the right amount (it’s called stuffing, not baked bread? Unless you think that since the stuffing doesn’t go into the bird, it’s actually dressing, and then you can call it whatever you want, but I’m going with stuffing). Do not skip on the vegetables! They add flavor, but also moisture to the stuffing, and what else is there to live for other than stuffing that is moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Plus, after all that sauteing and sweating, those vegetables will cook down to about half their size, so don’t you worry about it all fitting in that dish.

HATE CELERY? I can’t believe you’re still subscribed! Sure, you can leave out the celery, just replace it with something like leeks or fennel (if you don’t hate fennel!)

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Vegetarian, easy, just use vegetable stock instead of turkey/chicken. Vegan? Swap vegetable broth for turkey/chicken, use more olive oil or your favorite butter replacement for the butter, leave the egg out altogether— it will not have that same custardy texture, but it will still be fluffy, rich, and delicious.

GLUTEN-FREE: I have no idea!! Have never tested this stuffing recipe w GF bread. If you have, please let me know in the comments!

BAKING VESSEL: You can bake it in ANY OVEN SAFE DISH you fancy (cast iron, loaf pan, cake pan, pyrex, pie plate— just make sure there’s enough depth so the stuffing doesn’t dry out). If it can go into the oven, you can put your stuffing inside of it (except your turkey— don’t do that!).

LEFTOVERS: I am going to give you suggestions for how to reheat (in a baking dish, in a cast-iron or regular skillet are best), plus a recipe for this stuffing omelet (you’ll have to wait till next week for that one).

Classic Celery Stuffing

serves 6–8

Click here for a printable PDF.

This stuffing is a perfect food and if you don’t like celery, I’m sorry! Sure, you could use fennel instead, but don’t leave the vegetable out altogether—it provides flavor (fantastic flavor if you ask me), but also moisture to prevent the stuffing from drying out. Don’t skip the second bake—that’s when the magic (crispiness) happens.  

1 large loaf good, crusty bread, preferably sourdough or ciabatta (about 1¼ pounds)
½ cup olive oil
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (or 2 large leeks, thinly sliced)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups celery, chopped, leaves reserved for garnish if available
1 cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken, turkey or vegetable broth
3 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped parsley or celery leaves
½ cup finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped marjoram, oregano or thyme (optional)

1. Using your hands, tear bread, crust and all, into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces. (Alternatively, you can cut the bread with a knife, but I prefer the way the craggy bits toast and soak up the goods.) Place chunks on a rimmed baking sheet, and let sit uncovered at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. If you’re short on time, you can toast the chunks in a 300-degree oven instead, tossing occasionally, until dried out (but not browned) on the outside.

2. Heat oven to 375°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine olive oil and butter. Once butter has melted, add the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onions are totally softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Add celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until bright green and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add white wine, and cook until reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Whisk together broth and eggs in a medium bowl. Place bread in a large bowl (you want a lot of room for mixing, so go big), and add the egg mixture over everything and toss a few times (I like to use my hands here, but a wooden spoon is good, too). Let sit a minute or two and give another toss. Repeat twice until all the liquid has been absorbed and evenly distributed to each and every piece of bread.

5. Add the onion and celery mixture, parsley, chives, and marjoram, if using. Stir to coat so that everything is evenly distributed, trying not to totally crush the bread.

6. Transfer mixture to a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish (a 9-by-13 pan also works, so does a cast iron, so does...), making sure not to pack it too tightly. (You want to keep the bread in the stuffing as light as possible.)

7. Cover with foil and bake until the stuffing is sizzling at the edges and completely cooked through, 40–45 minutes. If it’s not yet time to serve, remove stuffing from oven and set aside. (If you are nearly ready to serve, proceed directly to the next step and continue without pausing.)

8. When ready to serve, remove foil and increase temperature to 425 degrees. Bake stuffing until crispy, crunchy, and impossibly golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Scatter with celery leaves, if using, and serve.

DO AHEAD: The bread can and should be torn a day or two ahead. The knife work for all the vegetables (slicing, etc) can be done the day before (store in a resealable bag, refrigerated). It can be baked the first time a few hours before dinner, then crisped up before dinner. I don’t love baking it the night before, but if you are determined to do that, then go ahead!

LEFTOVERS: Re-crisping stuffing in a skillet with more butter, might even be better than the first time. Top it with fried eggs, maybe? Also great cold out of the container.

Thank you for reading and see you back here tomorrow for TURKEY AND GRAVY.