In my line of work, Thanksgiving plans have to be made months in advance. By August and September, you're constantly bombarded with images of turkeys and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and, most importantly, stuffing. Stuffing, the most essential part of any Thanksgiving meal. In all honesty, I can pass on just about anything else as long as I have a big pile of stuffing. So after a week of staring at various delicious-looking stuffing recipes, I broke down. It was Thanksgiving in September, bird optional.
This recipe uses both cornbread and regular bread, striking a nice balance between sweetness and bready texture. The obscene amount of bread also makes this stuffing exceptionally filling.
Another key element is tart apples, preferably granny smith. A fantastic balance to the peppery sausage and the sweet cornbread, the apples are little bursts of surprise.
Finally, there is the abundance of fresh herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram. Plus, the inner leaves of the celery stalk, with their concentrated celery flavor, are the essence of Thanksgiving aromas. File this one where you can get to it easily, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Recipe after the jump:
CORNBREAD-SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLES
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) sweet unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
2 ribs celery diced
2 tart apples (Jonathan, Winesap or Granny Smith), cored & chunked, with or without peel
1 pound lightly seasoned bulk sausage (breakfast sausage with sage is best)
4 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (preferably homemade)
4 cups coarsely crumbled or cubed white bread (French or homemade preferred)
2 tbsp inner celery leaves, diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage, diced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, diced
1 tbsp fresh or dried marjoram, diced
1 tsp ground nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups shelled pecan halves (optional)
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
Cube or crumble all of the bread and add to a large mixing bowl.
Melt half of the butter in a skillet. Saute onions and celery over low heat until translucent. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and cook over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer apples and butter to the mixing bowl.
Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and reserve the rendered fat.
Add remaining ingredients to the ingredients in the mixing bowl and combine gently. Cool completely before stuffing the bird; refrigerate if not used promptly.
If you do not wish actually to stuff the bird, spoon it into a large casserole. Cover casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees, basting occasionally with cooking juices from the bird or with the reserved sausage fat or additional chicken stock if necessary. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown the top.
Enough stuffing for a 20-pound turkey, to make 12 to 14 portions. Freezes well.