I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published November 5th 2010
Thanksgiving is a time to draw people together to savor new tastes and the season's best flavors. Few opportunities to do both exist in such harmony as in the stuffing you use to flavor and dress your turkey.
Whenever stuffing poultry, you should be aware of the following guidelines: Interior stuffing must reach a temperature of 165ºF to kill any bacteria that could lead to food poisoning. For this reason, many people prefer to bake their stuffing outside the turkey. When prepared in this way, stuffing is called dressing. All ingredients should be cooled before combining, which is also a good rule to follow when trying to avoid the growth of dangerous bacteria.
When combining stuffing or dressing ingredients, don't over mix them. The idea is that the flavors should be properly blended, but never mashed. A tasty stuffing maintains its form and texture. Spoon dressing in a shallow baking pan or casserole dish. Likewise, if you're filling a turkey, don't compact the stuffing. Instead spoon it loosely, as stuffing tends to expand during the cooking process. No matter your personal preference, consider the following recipes when deciding whether or not to recreate mom's stuffing again this year.
Everyone loves bread stuffing, so if you really can't deviate from your usual recipe, consider toasting the bread before mixing it to create a firmer texture, or starting with day-old crusty Italian or French bread. You may also use a mix of different kinds of breads (including sweet breads, corn breads, or whole grain varieties), or add different herbs and spices to punctuate your flavor, such as nutmeg or ginger. If you find that your stuffing or dressing is often on the dry side, add some chicken broth to your mixture.
Other more savory add-ins punch up the flavor, character, and bulk, such as cooked giblets, sweet sausage, nuts, and even fresh cranberries. Adding an egg is also useful to bind ingredients together, but it is not always necessary. Those who want to please guests expecting a traditional bread stuffing can always double their recipes, reserving half to be prepared as a dressing, thereby taking a leap of faith with a new flavor while having on hand your old standby.