Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Best Sage Dressing


I've eaten sage bread stuffing at Thanksgiving all of my life. At the Thanksgiving dinners my Mom made for me and her when I was growing up and for the Thanksgiving dinners I made for my roommate when we were in college.

I never actually had a recipe, I just kept playing around and adding a few new techniques. One major revelation came from Alton Brown  - think about what something is before you make it. This is bread pudding. I also picked up a great secret ingredient form the folks at Cook's Illustrated - soy sauce! 

Don't knock until you've tried it, okay. I promised a friend that I would blog this recipe a year or two ago - but I did not. Because I suck. So as I prepped ahead of time for this year, I took photos. I will add a nice picture of this year's finished product when I finally put it in the oven.

You'll need:

2 loaves of sandwich bread
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 32 ounce container chicken broth
4 celery stalks
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic

Let's start with bread. I have two big loaves of the cheapest white sandwich bread on planet earth. You could use good bread or stuffing cubes. But pulling apart and toasting the bread for stuffing is an indelible memory from my childhood, so I do it this way.   I also have a big-ass bowl. Everyone needs a BAB. If you don't have a BAB, you'll need multiple small-ass bowls.

Tear it into pieces.  Enough to fill a BAB.

The bread will need to be toasted in a 350 degree oven. I use two big-ass sheet pans (half-sheets). You can use multiple smaller sheets or line the oven racks with foil. Try to keep the bread to one layer. Toast it until it begins to turn golden brown then remove.

Let's check out the other ingredients. One large onion, three or four stalks of celery, three cloves of garlic, butter, ground sage and thyme, soy sauce and four eggs. You'll also need half and half and a 32 ounce package of chicken broth.

Dice the celery and onions,

Melt half a stick of butter in a large pan and add 2 teaspoons each of ground sage and thyme. The spices will "bloom" in the butter and add an extra layer of flavor.

Add the celery and onions along with a sprinkle of salt and cook over medium until onions begin to turn golden brown. Then add the minced garlic.

After about a minute, add the chicken broth and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Don't leave out the soy sauce. It makes a world of difference to the flavor.
Let this simmer over medium for about 10 to 15 minutes.  You'll probably want to let it cool a bit.  While it cools, put the four eggs in a bowl or cup. As I said, this is a bread pudding. Now it's time to make the custard.

Add some chopped fresh parsley if you have it on hand. If you do not have fresh parsley, don't bother to add dried. We want the fresh pop of the parsley and dried doesn't have that.

Add 12 ounces of half and half (a cup and a half) and whisk it all together.

Now get out the BAB. Put all of the bread in there.

Dump in all the cooked vegetables.

Give it a good stir with a spoon, or better yet mush with your hands and then salt and pepper to taste before you add the custard mixture.

Use your hands (or a spoon, if you must) to mush it all together. Now, butter a 13 x 9 or thereabouts casserole dish.

Dump the mixture in there and press it down to make it fit. It will.

If you are making ahead, you can cover it with plastic wrap and stash it in the fridge. Otherwise, you'll want to preheat a 325 degree oven and melt what's left of that stick of butter. Drizzle it on top and bake for between 45 minutes to an hour until the top is a beautiful golden brown. 

If you are making ahead, follow the same procedure after you let the casserole get to room temperature.

I'll post some baking pictures after Thanksgiving.

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