NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
November 10, 1999
Some advertisers don't seem to have any qualms about setting cooks up for failure on Thanksgiving Day. No matter how hard I've tried, I have never created a turkey that glistens with the same mouth-watering shade of golden brown as I've seen depicted in the turkey ads. But then unlike the poultry purveyors, I don't have a food stylist using slight of hand to make my bird look picture perfect.
So I've generally focused my attention on a part of the Thanksgiving meal where I have more control, the part of the meal I consider to be the real star: the stuffing.
I can't recall what attracted me to stuffing in the first place. Maybe it was the sage-laced aroma that always filled our kitchen early on holiday mornings when I was a child. Maybe it was that spoonful of right-out-of-the-turkey stuffing Dad would always give me as he was slicing the bird. Maybe it was the way stuffing absorbed Mom's flawless gravy and created a culinary synergy akin to peanut butter and chocolate or strawberries and whipped cream.
Maybe it was the fact that second helpings of stuffing taste as good as the first. Maybe it was the way Mom prepared leftover stuffing--using it for the filling in a modified Shepherd's pie, with a mashed-potato-and-cottage-cheese bottom and a diced-turkey-and-gravy top. Maybe it was all those things. One thing I know for certain is that I've never met a stuffing I haven't liked--even the stuffing from the college cafeteria that came in a solid block like a piece of meatloaf.
Stuffing recipes are as plentiful as full stomachs on Thanksgiving, with some recipes calling for combinations such as diced crab meat, Cajun seasoning and corn; corn and lima beans (succotash); or raisins and walnuts. But for the holidays, I'm inclined to rely on a more traditional version. The slightly adapted recipe that follows originated with renowned bread baker James Beard and was featured in the November 1965 issue of House & Garden magazine.
Yield: 20 servings (about ½ cup each)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup diced onions
2 cups minced celery
8 cups day-old bread (about 14 slices), crusts and all, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon rubbed sage, or to taste
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons black pepper, or to taste
2 cups (1 14.5-ounce can) unheated low-salt chicken broth, divided
Melt butter in large skillet and add onions and celery. Cook until onions start becoming translucent, but do not allow onions to brown. Meanwhile, combine bread, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss well to mix ingredients. Add butter and vegetables to bread mixture and blend together well. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Pour broth over mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing ingredients each time and testing for moistness. Stuffing should be moist but not soggy. Save any unused broth for the gravy. Place stuffing in a 13x9x2-inch buttered baking dish, cover tightly with buttered aluminum foil and bake at 350 F until the stuffing is heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top begins to brown, about 15 minutes more. Serve immediately.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
If I were a turkey, I'd be a little worried. I'd probably spend my days running on a treadmill to look scrawny and avoid being the plump, glistening holiday centerpiece. I'd be hoping a goose or ham might appear to be more attractive options.
Regardless of your main course, food safety should be on the menu during the holidays. Who wants to make their family members sick with their cooking? Poultry is commonly contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter--types of bacteria that are killed by thorough cooking. Your family will be thankful if a meat thermometer is one of your well-used kitchen tools because even pop-up thermometers have been shown to pop before the bird is fully cooked.
Begin your turkey-day preparations by thawing the bird in a refrigerator set at 40 F--not on the counter. Allow about 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds. Cold-water thawing is another safe option. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed, and allow about 30 minutes per pound. Be sure to carefully clean--and sanitize--any kitchen surface contacted by the thaw water. You can make your own sanitizing solution by following this ratio: 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. If your bird is svelte enough to fit in a microwave oven, that's another thawing option, but the bird should be cooked immediately after defrosting.
Basic Stuffing makes about 10 cups of stuffing, and each half-cup serving contains 140 calories and 10 grams of fat. The question of "to stuff or not to stuff" has been stirring a bit of a controversy in years past. It is safe to stuff the bird--loosely--but be sure the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 F as measured by a meat thermometer. Mix the ingredients just before stuffing the bird, and allow about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
Cook the bird in an oven set no lower than 325 F. The temperature of the innermost part of the thigh should reach at least 180 F, and the juices should run clear. Allow the turkey to stand 20 minutes to make carving easier. Remove the stuffing from the bird before serving. Cool leftovers quickly by removing the turkey from the bones and refrigerating in shallow containers within two hours of cooking.
By following these steps, you'll be thankful, too, for a safe holiday meal and safe leftovers.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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