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STUFFED WITH VARIETY, FLAVOR

Tired of following the same recipe year after year? Mix things up with these variations.

The best stuffings are wonderfully moist while, at the same time, just a little bit crunchy, at least on top. A good stuffing - or maybe you call it dressing if you were raised in the South - also should be highly seasoned, but not so much that it overpowers the taste of the turkey or clashes with the gravy. Finally, it shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg to make, because everyone is going to want seconds and probably even thirds, not counting for lunch the next day.

There's also the matter of personal taste. What kind of stuffing sends your taste buds into overdrive often depends on where you live, or your family's ethnic heritage. Southerners, for example, love to build the dish around corn bread, while New Englanders add richness with oysters. In Louisiana and Texas, it all starts with a pot of rice; in the Southwest, flavor comes from chili peppers.

And then there's the matter of stuffing the bird. Most culinary experts advise against this for a couple of reasons, mostly because it's more difficult to cook the turkey correctly. Also, the more you handle the raw turkey, the more chance there is for cross contamination. It's easier and safer to bake the stuffing separately.

We know there's a good chance some of you would never dream of fiddling with Grandma's stuffing recipe - there's a reason it has been handed down over the generations, and that's because it tastes so good. But for those who are looking to try something new this holiday season, we offer two easy recipes to help you get started, including a cheesy version.

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MODERATE

Orange Pecan Stuffing

10 ounces sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

1/4 cup white wine

2 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

6 cups stale bread cubes

3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the turkey sausage until browned and cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add the butter, onion and celery, then cook until the onion is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the coriander, chili powder, salt, pepper, dried cranberries and orange zest and juice. Continue to cook for 2 minutes to develop the flavors. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, pecans and parsley, and meat mixture from the pan. Toss until well mixed. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole. This can be done up to 2 days in advance (cover with plastic and refrigerate). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Serves 8.

Source: Associated Press

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EASY

Cheesy Stuffing

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup chicken or turkey broth

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Salt and ground black pepper

1 large loaf (about 18 to 20 ounces) stale bread (such as challah), torn into pieces and lightly toasted

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish or a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until softened and the onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the flour and stir to coat. Stir in the milk, then the broth. Stir continuously and bring to a simmer, cooking for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Monterey Jack cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the torn bread into the mixture, then spoon it into the prepared baking dish, arranging it in an even layer. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.

Serves 10.

Source: Associated Press

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