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 advanced. 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 along the way to see how it will 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 constitutes 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 with like ingredients. We are not necessarily disrupting so to speak "chemical balance" of the recipe.
For example, the pretzel still has the basic elements that make up a bread, therefore it will behave like a bread in this application. The mirepoix of onion, celery and carrots, are the ingredients that will give the 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 apples pair well with sausage. Many cultures use applesauce as a condiment to pork, geese, and smoked meats. I like to use apples to fill the cavity of chicken and turkey as well. Plus apples balances 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 for the apples, I am introducing the dates sweetness to balance out the chorizo andplay on the fall theme of the recipe.
Chorizo, Sausage, or none at all . . .
To be completely honest, the chorizo came to play only because I liked the idea of adding sausage. Like I had said before, I have made many stuffings in my life and one of them had sausage, and that was 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 the heat to this dish, it also has the smokiness of paprika added to it. If chorizo is not somehting you would like, feel free to replace it with another variation of sausage or ommit it all together.
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 as a side. There are many complications when it comes to using a stuffing. We are talking about a product that could be potentially semi cooked, inserted into a raw product. The stuffing is then absorbing all the raw juices, which means that we have to be completely certain the stuffing has to reach 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 thouroughly flavored.
The process stays the same as making traditional stuffing. Pretty much this recipe can be reverted 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 the bread and dry in oven. If you are using pretzels, I bought the whole pretzel bow shaped family bag. These are easily breakable. I opened the bad, let the air out and then held the bag closed with one hand as I proceeded to bang the pretzels with a spoon with the other. 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 completely. Removed the chorizo from the pan, and added the veggies and apples. Cooked the veggies until translucent (onions and celery, apples might start to breakdown), then added the chorizo back with the chopped dates. Note, if chorizo renders too much fat, remove excess fat and reserve if needed later.
Third, pretzel, stock/broth, eggs, butter. Once veggies, fruit, and sausage are mingling, remove from heat. In a bowl add the pretzels and the veggie/fruit/sausage mixture and mix. Add butter, whipped eggs and stock/broth until you have reached a desired consistency. Some people like their stuffing mixed to the point you cannot see bread chunks, others like to see the pieces of bread. Place in a pan and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until 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
A flavorful alternative to standard stuffing. The mixture of salty pretzels, sweet apples and spicy chorizo, makes this stuffing a great addition to your fall recipe arsenal.
- 1 lbs pretzel pieces
- crumbled chorizo
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- ¼ to ½ minced fresh parsley
- 1 tsp dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh
- 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ freshly grated or ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- 1 granny apple, peeled and ¼" diced
- ⅓ to 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 to 8 tbsp (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 tbsp 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.