The beginnings of a new Thanksgiving tradition
Thanksgiving has a set of staple power players that, in some households, are the unwavering dishes on the table. Stuffing is one of those dishes. I remember watching my mom save bread loaves to make stuffing on Thanksgiving. She would dry the bread or let it go stale. Then, she would remove the crust, dice it, and toast it. Quite a process, and she had not started making the stuffing yet!
As I grew and began cooking professionally, I remember having to make stuffing in volumes for the Thanksgiving special menu. The cases of bags of Pepperidge Farm cubed dried bread. I remember the gallons of stock steeping weeks in advance. Cases of onions, celery, and carrots to be hand peeled and chopped. And no restaurant is the same. All had a different take on the traditional dish.
I have made many variations of this staple dish. Some have been made with Italian sausage. To some, I have added fruits and berries. But for the most part, the bread component has always stayed the same unless it was cornbread. This time, I decided to take the traditional recipe and tweak a few items to see how it would come out. Here are the results.
Let's look at a traditional stuffing first
Before we break the wheel and reconstruct it, let's learn from it first. A traditional Thanksgiving consists of dried, toasted bread, a mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots; butter; chicken or turkey stock/broth; eggs; and fresh or dried herbs. My recipe will substitute the following ingredients: bread and carrots, and it will add chorizo and dates. This is a simple technique of looking at ingredients in their basic form and substituting them with like ingredients. We are not necessarily disrupting the "chemical balance" of the recipe.
For example, the pretzel still has the essential elements that makeup bread. Therefore, it will behave like bread in this application. The mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrots are the ingredients that will give a very familiar flavor to the recipe. We still have the basics of onion and celery; we are adding the apple to incorporate a sense of fall flavor. Also, the apple pairs well with the sausage. Many cultures use applesauce as a condiment for pork, geese, and smoked meats. I also like to use apples to fill the cavity of chicken and turkey. Plus, apples balance out the spiciness of the chorizo.
Dates are not in the traditional recipe. I like the sweetness they bring to the recipe. Dates, like raisins and cranberries, have a concentrated sweetness to them. For the same reasons as the apples, I am introducing the date's sweetness to balance out the chorizo and play on the fall theme of the recipe.
Chorizo, Sausage, or none at all . . .
The chorizo came to play only because I liked adding sausage. Like I said before, I have made many stuffings in my life, and one of them had sausage, one of my favorite recipes. But didn't want to add just any sausage. Chorizo brings a different level of heat and flavor. Chorizo is not just bringing heat to this dish; it also has the smokiness of paprika added to it. If chorizo is not something, you would like, replace it with another sausage variation or omit it altogether.
A quick note on stuffing
I do not use my stuffing as a stuffing. I bake my stuffing in a separate dish in the oven and serve it as a side. There are many complications when it comes to using stuffing. We are talking about a product that could be potentially semi-cooked and inserted into a raw product. The stuffing is then absorbing all the raw juices, which means we have to ensure the stuffing has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees for 15 seconds before serving.
Cooking the stuffing separately assures the stuffing will be cooked throughout while stuffing the cavity with a mirepoix will ensure the bird will be thoroughly flavored.
The process stays the same as making traditional stuffing. This recipe can be converted to dried toasted white bread, onions, carrots, celery, stock/broth, herbs, butter, and eggs, and you will have the traditional version. But stuffing is nothing that anyone should be too terribly worried about. It is very simple to make and very hard to ruin.
First, prepare your bread. If you want to make traditional stuffing, dice the bread and dry it in the oven. I bought the whole pretzel bow-shaped family bag if you are using pretzels. These are easily breakable. I opened the bag, let the air out, and then held the bag closed with one hand as I swung the pretzels with a spoon. The pretzels were not uniform, but that was fine. Note pretzels are salty; keep that in mind when seasoning the stuffing.
Second, chorizo and veggies. I cooked the chorizo thoroughly. Removed the chorizo from the pan and added the veggies and apples. Cooked the veggies until translucent (onions and celery, apples might start to break down), then added the chorizo with the chopped dates. If chorizo renders too much fat, remove excess fat and reserve it if needed later.
Third, pretzels, stock/broth, eggs, and butter. Once veggies, fruit, and sausage are mingling, remove from heat. Add the pretzels and the veggie/fruit/sausage mixture in a bowl. Add butter, whipped eggs, and stock/broth until you have reached the desired consistency. Some people like their stuffing mixed to the point they cannot see bread chunks, while others like to see the pieces of bread. Place in a pan and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
I hope you like this recipe. If you like this recipe, maybe try one of these:
- Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque
- The Secret of How to Grill Sweet Potatoes Flawlessly
- My 10 Favorite Pantry Products and How to Use Them
Pretzel Stuffing with Chorizo and Apples
- 1 lbs pretzel pieces
- crumbled chorizo
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- ¼ to ½ minced fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried sage or 1 tablespoon fresh
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ freshly grated or ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 granny apple peeled and ¼" diced
- ⅓ to 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 to 8 tablespoon ½ to 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 to 2 large eggs well beaten (optional)
- Toast pretzel pieces and set aside.
- In a hot skillet add crumbled chorizo. Crisp chorizo and render fat. Remove chorizo. Depending on the amount of fat rendered from chorizo, reserve half of the fat. Add gradually and as needed in the next step.
- Add onions and celery, cook until translucent.
- Remove from heat and add to toasted pretzel pieces along with parsley, sage, thyme, salt, ground pepper, nutmeg, cloves, apples, and chorizo bits.
- Melt 4 tablespoon butter and add to chicken stock.
- Depending on how firm you would like the stuffing to be, stir in, the buttered chicken stock, and the beaten eggs. The stuffing is to show light moisture but not packed.
- Adjust for seasoning
- Bake in a 350-degree oven until the top has formed a crust, and the stuffing has heated through. About 25 to 40 minutes.