The truth is I don't remember seeing stuffing on the Thanksgiving table. We had turkey every year, and I know there was cranberry sauce. Potatoes, always. Mashed or scalloped and afloat between thick layers of butter and cheese. But stuffing? I can't picture it and if it was on the table I'm not sure who in our family would have cooked it.
You may think, what the heck does this girl from Miami know? A girl from a city where they call it "Sangiving" and the traditional American staples of this holiday might share a table with gallo pinto, taquitos, and tres leches.
But I have my sources. A boy from Iowa and a copy of the classic Joy of Cooking, which was a high school graduation gift from his Michigan-born father. The cookbook dedicates a couple pages to the topic of stuffing and offers a basic recipe with many variations. This Thanksgiving we're heading to Iowa, which feels very much like the center of America, so I'm bringing a fairly traditional stuffing recipe with me.
Apples are in season and we can't stop eating them so I put a ton of them in this version. There's also a good amount of sausage because we once spent a weekend in Chicago and on our way to the airport, Danny's dad took us on a last-minute mission to find a Polish grocery store. It was kielbasa or bust. The car was split over this moment of spontaneity, but we ended up making the flight on time and the detour proved to be worth it.
My first go with this stuffing had good flavor but turned out too dry. The texture reminded my Midwestern taste tester more of panzanella. So I doubled the amount of stock and increased the amount of sausage and apple quite a bit. The result is a much more cohesive stuffing with a crisp top layer.
Pay attention to the size of the bread cubes and try to get them as close to ½-inch pieces as you can. I used fennel here instead of celery for a more nuanced flavor. Oh, and as you probably know, this is the kind of the thing that reheats very well. Any leftovers should be warmed up the morning after and topped off with a runny egg. A solid breakfast before the lunch of leftover turkey sandwich, I bet.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Times. For more kitchen adventures, visit her blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at [email protected]