Published November 1, 2010.
Stuffing baked in a dish usually lacks any turkey flavor. What could we do to bring an inside-the-bird taste to stuffing cooked outside of it?
Stuffing prepared in a baking dish doesn’t have the bird’s flavorful juices, leaving it crispy but lacking true depth of flavor.
We were determined to revamp the stuffing cooked outside the bird to give it the rich flavor and soft texture of stuffing from the turkey cavity.
We formulated a recipe using classic ingredients: canned chicken broth, celery, and onion cooked in butter, eggs, fresh herbs, and dried cubes of bread. We chose ordinary, easy-to-find sandwich bread, which we “staled” by toasting in a low oven for an hour. This method removes moisture, ultimately leading to a drier structure that allows the bread to soak up more liquid for a better-tasting stuffing.
Then it was time to get on with our real goal: infusing the dressing with meaty turkey flavor. We needed to figure out how to re-create the rich, fatty juices that trickle down inside the bird—in essence, creating a makeshift turkey cavity. To do this, we turned to turkey wings. We browned them in one batch on the stovetop, then removed them, sautéed the aromatics, and added chicken broth. The flavorful browned bits left behind by the turkey legs added meaty flavor to the savory liquid.
We then combined the liquid, aromatics, and bread, along with eggs and more chicken broth (to augment the juices from the wings), and placed the mixture in a baking dish, arranging the seared wings atop the stuffing to get every last bit of turkey juice and fat to render. We covered the dish with foil, placed the baking dish on a baking sheet to protect the bottom layer against the oven’s heat, and slipped it into a moderate oven. A short while later, we had moist, tender stuffing that certainly looked the part—and our tasters declared it to be as rich and savory as any inside-the-bird stuffing they’d sampled.
We also created a few dressed-up variations that were more complex and offered some textural contrast. A version made with sausage, tart dried cherries, and toasted pecans won over our tasters, as did another made with bacon, sautéed apples, and leeks.list of recipes