Forget the bag — stuffing can be so much more than dried bread cubes brought to life by chicken broth.
Everyone has their Thanksgiving dinner priorities. Maybe you make a pie from scratch, so side dishes get the dump-out-of-bag-and-heat treatment. Or maybe you outsource all of your dessert, so you can focus on homemade mashed potatoes. This year, why not go all in on the stuffing?
That means expanding the definition from the traditional bread-based casserole cooked in a turkey (or off to the side) to a mixture of ingredients that can be stuffed into many foods, namely squashes and fruits like apples. The favorite on most Thanksgiving tables, stuffing is difficult to screw up, and lends itself to many variations. We've gathered three stuffing recipes each for these three vessels.
For poultry, we recommend using fresh bread, which tends to hold up better to lots of ingredients. If you wish to use the bagged cubes, look for plain ones and proceed with the rest of the recipe. (These recipes can be cooked in a turkey if that's what you normally do, though our method uses a baking dish.)
When stuffing squash, have a large, sturdy knife on hand to cleanly cut the squash in halves. This will ensure even cooking, and stuffing. We use both butternut and acorn, though spaghetti is another (slightly less flavorful) option. Stuffed apples were the most pleasant surprise, able to work well in savory and sweet recipes.
CORN BREAD STUFFING
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided, plus more
1 (9- by 13-inch) pan corn bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups), dried out overnight
⅓ cup coarsely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces breakfast sausage, casings removed
2 onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 cups collard greens, tough stems removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 cups turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade), plus more
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish and a sheet of foil. Toast corn bread pieces on 2 rimmed baking sheets until browned, 8 to 10 minutes; place corn bread in a very large bowl.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Toast pecans on a clean rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool; add to bowl with corn bread.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking into small pieces with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with corn bread with a slotted spoon.
Add onions, celery and collard greens to skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown and soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl with corn bread.
Reduce heat to medium and cook vinegar in skillet, scraping up any browned bits, until almost all evaporated, about 1 minute. Add ½ cup butter; cook, stirring, until melted. Drizzle over corn bread mixture.
Whisk eggs and 2 cups stock in a medium bowl; pour over corn bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss, adding more stock ¼ cupful at a time as needed (you may not use it all) until combined and corn bread is hydrated. Mix carefully to avoid breaking corn bread into crumbs. Transfer to prepared baking dish and dot with remaining ¼ cup butter.
Cover with buttered foil; bake until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out hot, 30 to 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Stuffing can be assembled a day ahead. Cover and chill.
Source: Bon Appétit
CHEDDAR AND JALAPENO STUFFING
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish and foil 1 large loaf Italian bread (about 1 pound), cut into 3⁄4-inch pieces (about 16 cups)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (seeds removed for less heat)
Salt and black pepper
½ cup lager beer
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups sharp cheddar, grated (8 ounces)
6 scallions, sliced
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Divide the bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until dry and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, jalapenos, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the beer and cook until evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
Add the bread, broth, eggs, cheddar, scallions and ½ teaspoon salt to the vegetables and toss to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.
Source: Real Simple
SWEET POTATO AND PEPITA STUFFING
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish and foil
1 large loaf Italian bread (about 1 pound), cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 16 cups)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup pepitas (roasted and hulled pumpkin seeds)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with the oil; season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Divide the bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until dry and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
Add the bread, broth, eggs, sweet potatoes, pepitas, sage and ½ teaspoon salt to the vegetables and toss to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.
Source: Real Simple
QUINOA APPLE STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
For the squash:
2 medium butternut squash
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons fig jam
2 tablespoons maple syrup
For the stuffing:
2 ⅔ cups cooked quinoa
4 cups chopped Braeburn apples, cored but not peeled
⅔ cup diced dried Black Mission figs
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pine nuts
Zest of 2 navel oranges
Zest of 2 limes
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the ends off both butternut squash and slice in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp using a spoon. Place the squash halves in a microwave-proof pan, dust with salt, fill with ½ inch water and cover with plastic. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove the plastic and pour out the water.
Melt the butter, jam and maple syrup together. Baste the top surfaces of the squash halves with ⅓ of the butter mixture. Slide into the oven and roast for 35 minutes, or until tender. (It could take up to 45 minutes.)
Scoop out a trough of squash, saving the squash for another purpose, in order to have more room for stuffing. Either cool to room temperature until ready to stuff, or baste the squash halves with another third of the butter mixture, and fill with the stuffing, spreading excess stuffing around the squash in the pan. Drizzle the remaining butter mixture over the stuffing. Bake for 30 minutes.
Just before serving, finish with a flourish of fresh thyme and pomegranate seeds.
Serves 4 to 8.
BAKED STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
4 large or 6 smaller acorn squash
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for basting
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice, pulsed to a coarse puree in a food processor
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons mild honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne
3 cups cooked pintos, black beans or red beans, or 2 cans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels
⅔ cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes, until soft enough to easily cut in half. Wait until cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes), then cut in half (stem to tip) and scoop out seeds and membranes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down slightly, about 5 minutes. Add honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses, vinegar, salt and cayenne and bring to a simmer. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, until thick and fragrant. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in beans and corn and simmer another 5 minutes.
Oil 1 or 2 baking dishes or a sheet pan that will accommodate all the squash. Season cavities and cut sides of the squash with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil or melted butter. Fill with bean mixture. Mix together bread crumbs, Gruyere and remaining olive oil and sprinkle over the filling. Brush exposed edges of squash with oil. Place in the baking dish or on baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake large squash for 45 minutes, check smaller squash after 30 minutes. The flesh should be easy to penetrate with the tip of a knife. Uncover and return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until bread crumbs and cheese are lightly browned. Serve hot or warm.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: New York Times
STUFFED SQUASH WITH HERBED GOAT CHEESE
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup quick cooking barley
2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved crosswise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon dried sage
Salt and pepper, optional
4 tablespoons crumbled herbed goat cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the barley and simmer until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Scoop the seeds from each squash half and place, cut sides up, in a microwave-safe baking dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until flesh is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken, onion and green pepper and saute 3 minutes. Add sage, salt and pepper, to taste, and cooked barley and stir to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through and mixture is well combined.
Spoon barley mixture into each halved squash. Transfer stuffed squash to a foil-lined baking sheet or a baking dish and top with goat cheese. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.
Source: Food Network
SAVORY BAKED APPLES
⅔ cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
⅓ cup uncooked brown rice
⅓ cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup apple cider
4 large Rome apples, cored
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1 (4-ounce) link sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion
⅓ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons minced green onions
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes.
Combine cranberries and cider in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high for 1 minute. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add mixture to rice.
Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out centers of apples, leaving a ½-inch-thick shell, and chop apple flesh. Brush the inside of apples with 1 tablespoon butter. Place apples on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until just tender.
Preheat broiler to high.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute 5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan; drain. Wipe skillet and melt remaining butter in pan. Add chopped apple, yellow onion and next 3 ingredients (through pepper); saute 4 minutes. Add garlic; saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sausage, onion mixture, walnuts and next 3 ingredients (through sage) to rice; toss. Divide rice mixture evenly among apples; top with cheese. Broil for 5 minutes or until golden.
Source: Cooking Light
BAKED APPLES WITH PORK
1 medium-sized onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter
½ pound ground pork
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
9 medium-sized tart apples
2 cups apple cider
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet over a low flame, saute onion in the butter for 5 minutes. Add pork and spices and cook slowly for 12 minutes. Stir in nuts. Peel, core and mince one apple; add to the meat mixture and remove from flame.
Core remaining apples and stuff with the pork mixture. Put stuffed apples in a shallow baking dish. Warm the cider and pour around the apples. Put apples in oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove and, if serving later, cover the baking dish with foil. Apples can be reheated in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes or served at room temperature.
Source: New York Times
BAKED APPLES STUFFED WITH DRIED FRUIT AND PECANS
4 (6-ounce) red apples such as Gala or Rome Beauty
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (½ tablespoon softened and ½ tablespoon cut into 4 pieces)
½ cup unfiltered apple cider
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup low-fat vanilla or maple yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core apples with corer. Stand apples up and make 4 evenly spaced vertical cuts starting from top of each apple and stopping halfway from bottom to keep apple intact. Brush inside of apples with lemon juice and stand apples in a 9-inch ceramic or glass pie plate.
Toss together apricots, currants, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Rub softened butter into dried-fruit mixture with your fingers until combined well, then pack center of each apple with mixture. Put a piece of remaining butter on top of each apple. Pour cider and vanilla around apples and cover pie plate tightly with foil.
Bake in middle of oven, basting once, until apples are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until apples are very tender but not falling apart, 20 to 30 minutes more.
Transfer to serving dishes and spoon sauce over and around apples. Serve with dollops of yogurt.