Published November 1, 1998.
By using the right bread, getting the ratio of wet and dry ingredients just right, and baking it covered, you can make a rich, flavorful stuffing--without the bird.
There are arguments both for and against cooking stuffing inside a bird. Those who are for it have tradition on their side and the conviction that stuffing cooked outside the bird will be lacking in the flavor and moistness it picks up when cooked inside the bird. In the second camp are those concerned that stuffing the bird slows down its cooking and can even be a little dangerous unless precautions are taken to guard against bacterial growth. In developing this recipe, we had the second camp in mind.
We wanted to come up with a side dish that could be eaten with a variety of holiday roasts. It would have a rich golden crust that contrasted with its moist, fragrant interior. It would be based on bread but would have a full complement of essential herbs and aromatic vegetables as well as options for meat, fruit, and nuts.
After testing eight different kinds of bread, we settled on French. It held up to the addition of liquid necessary for moistening, maintaining some structure and chew. To determine the content of the liquid ingredients, we tested several stuffings moistened with chicken stock that was combined variously with wine, port, brandy, and cream. Somewhat to our surprise, we returned to plain chicken stock. It delivered a clean taste that wouldn't get lost in--or muddy--the sea of flavors to be added to the stuffing. Eggs made the stuffing rich and meaty, with a deep golden color. Butter further enriched the flavor. The classic components of onion and celery brought the flavor of the stuffing along, and it was brightened by the addition of herbs.list of recipes