I don’t know about anyone else, but I love creating new recipes for my family. I try to incorporate the old with the new.
My favorite bread, well, I pretty much love all bread, but the one I especially gravitate to is ciabatta bread. Below is my Thanksgiving stuffing prepared the day before Thanksgiving and the morning of. No need to stuff the turkey with it either because it tastes good from the casserole dish you bake it in.
Ciabatta Bread Stuffing with Sausage and Herbs
Number Of Servings: 5-20
Preparation Time: 2 days
- 1 1/2 – 2 lbs ciabatta bread, the bottom sliced off if too crusty along with the ends with a serrated knife, then the remaining sliced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 lb pork breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Deans Hot or Sage)
- 1 quart box of stock, turkey or chicken (you might use more or less)
- 1 large onion diced small
- 6 ribs of celery with leaves, diced small
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped (optional – I’m not a fan of parsley so I used dried herb)
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves (or 2 T. prepared minced garlic in the jar)
- 1 egg beaten
- dried sage, thyme, salt, and pepper for seasoning
- Sage leaves for garnish
PREP THE STUFFING THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING
Place the cubed bread on a sheet pan and into the oven at 250 degrees turning until all sides are very dried out, remove and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, melt the stick of butter. Add the onions, garlic, and celery; sauté on low until soft. Let it cool, then place it into a container or ziplocked bag for the morning of Thanksgiving.
In the same pan you cooked the celery and onions, cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and cooking until you see no pink. Place on paper towels to drain. Let it cool, then place into fridge in a container or ziplock bag.
THE MORNING OF THANKSGIVING
In a very large bowl, add the dried bread cubes, celery, onion, and garlic mixture, chopped parsley (or dried parsley), and the cooked sausage.
In a small sauce pan, add the stock and additional 1/2 stick of butter. Let the butter melt in the stock, don’t boil, just warm it.
Then, cup by cup, add the stock to the big bowl of stuffing ingredients, stirring until moistened, not drenched, in liquid. Remember you don’t want a soggy, mushy stuffing, you want the bread to keep its shape slightly.
Start to add your dried sage, thyme, salt, and pepper, this is a personal taste, so taste as you go, everything is cooked so you don’t need to worry about eating raw foods. Start out with a teaspoon, then taste and stir, adding more but you need to always taste it.
When you think the moisture is good enough and the seasoning just right, stir in the egg until it’s all incorporated thoroughly.
Butter a 9×12 casserole dish with deep sides and pour the stuffing mixture into it.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cover pan loosely with foil for around 30 minutes, then uncover, garnish with sage leaves and let the top crisp up for an additional 20-30 minutes more. You can bake it longer, just make sure it doesn’t burn on the top and it gets heated all the way through.
Personal Notes: It seems the more labor intense the recipe, the better it tastes.
Make-Ahead Stress Free Thanksgiving Turkey Gravy
Many of my friends complain they can’t make a good gravy. People will use the drippings from the turkey the day of and thicken it with cornstarch or flour. This type of gravy can make or break your dinner. The seasoning has to be just right or it could turn out bland. This is why I love my recipe. It is so flavorful, you’ll never go back to using anything else.
This is my gravy. You cannot beat the flavor and it can be made several days or weeks prior to Thanksgiving as long as you freeze or keep it refrigerated.
- Turkey parts, wings, legs or a combo of both. (I purchase a package of turkey thighs and wings)
- Aromatics: garlic, carrots, onion, celery, sage, thyme.
- (Pre-minced garlic; 2 Tablespoons, heaping; carrots, 4 large; celery, cut off bottoms, use entire bunch; onion, 1 large or two medium; sage to taste; thyme to taste.)
- Three (3) boxes of turkey stock or chicken stock, low sodium
- Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- One half cup plus a couple more tablespoons of Wondra brand, quick mixing flour. If you can’t find it, regular flour will do.
- One (1) stick of butter, unsalted.
- One (1) or two (2) teaspoons of Gravy Master (can be found in the spice aisle.) This is optional. It gives the gravy a richer color but again, not a deal breaker if you can’t find it.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F; place turkey parts in a baking dish, not too deep. Salt and pepper the parts and add the aromatics like garlic, celery, onion, and herbs.
- Drizzle with olive oil and pour a little broth in the bottom of the pan.
- Roast for approximately one to one and a half (1 or 1.5) hours or until nicely golden brown.
- Transfer everything into a stock pot, all the veggies, turkey and every bit of those drippings.
- Add enough stock to cover the parts. I add two boxes of chicken stock, but you can mix water and chicken stock. Don’t drown it just cover it, add in some salt and pepper.
- Let it simmer slowly for approximately two (2) hours partially covered. The meat will fall off the bones and the veggies will be very soft and fall apart.
- Let it cool down a bit then take a mesh strainer over a large bowl and thoroughly strain all the turkey and veggie contents, pressing down with the back of a spoon to help get all those tasty drippings into the bowl. Take your time and let it all drip down.
- Pick on, feed the dog, or discard those solids that are left.
- Place strained broth/drippings into containers and refrigerate overnight so the fat can rise to the top.
MAKING THE GRAVY
- Skim the fat off the top of your broth before starting to make your gravy.
- You’ll need two sauce pans, one to warm up your broth so it’s not ice cold and the other to melt the stick of unsalted butter.
- When the butter is melted, whisk in 1/2 cup of flour. Keep whisking until it’s nice and golden (about a minute or two) then pour the warm broth in and keep whisking until its thickened to your liking. I usually put another two heaping tablespoons of flour in mine by putting it in a separate small bowl with enough warm water to make a non lumpy consistency, then I pour and whisk it into my gravy mixture to make it thicker.
- Taste for additional salt and pepper if needed.
- At this point, you can refrigerate the gravy into a containers in teh fridge for a few days before Thanksgiving or just freeze it and take it out to defrost the day before Thanksgiving. Either way, just heat it up while the turkey is resting and being sliced.
I end up with two quarts of gravy. You can also save the drippings from the turkey and make additional gravy the next day or add it to what you have left over.