Tonawanda News

November 19, 2012

Stuffing smackdown

By Danielle Haynes and Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

— On one side of my family, there’s always been a certain amount of contention about that oh-so-important side that accompanies the Thanksgiving turkey: stuffing.

You see, my mother’s mother’s family hails from Pennsylvania. My great-grandparents packed their three kids up back when my grandmother was 10 years old and moved to Texas. With them, they brought along some traditions, recipes and pronunciations more typical of their Northern roots.

My grandmother — Mamaw — is something of a hybrid of Northern and Southern tendencies. She says crick instead of creek. But she also knows that in the South, you have to call it “pa-cahn” pie, not “pee-can” pie.

So when Mamaw offered me up to cook Christmas dinner last year for my great-great-aunt Grace and her family (all originally from Pennsylvania), I was emphatically told I had to make both Southern cornbread stuffing and (in Aunt Grace’s own words) “Yankee stuffing” to go along with the turkey.

“I don’t want none of that cornpone stuffing!” Aunt Grace ordered as her plate was served up.

OK, got it. I made both.

My “Curious Culinarian” co-writer, Jill Keppeler, is taking care of the “Yankee stuffing” below, so I’ll offer up my take on my great-great-grandmother Momsie’s (of the Southern side of the family) cornbread stuffing recipe.

In my experience, cornbread stuffing is wetter and more dense. You’re less likely to see bits of bread floating around in this mixture.

Momsie’s recipe was a bit difficult, vaguely calling for two parts cornbread to one part white bread, but listing no real quantities as a starting point. It seems like the most important thing is getting the correct consistency; it should be only slightly thicker than cornbread batter once everything is mixed together.

Since you’ll have to make the cornbread first, you’ll have a good idea of what that should look like.

— Danielle Haynes

Southern cornbread stuffing

Cornbread (Recipe below. If you have your own recipe, you’ll want to make enough for about an 8-by-8-inch panful.)

8 slices country white bread (should be about one part white bread to two parts cornbread)

1 white onion finely chopped

1/2 bunch of celery, finely chopped

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons sage

4 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable broth (may need more, so have extra on hand)

salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

7-by-11-inch casserole dish, or equivalent, buttered or greased

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear up breads into large mixing bowl.

Add onion, celery, eggs, sage and garlic into bread mixture and combine evenly.

Pour about two cups of broth over the mixture and combine. Keep adding broth and stirring together until the mixture is of slightly thicker consistency than the batter from the cornbread you made earlier (recipe below). I ended up using exactly four cups of broth.

Salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind the broth will add a fair amount of salt to the mixture.

Pour mixture into greased casserole dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden brown on top.

Cornbread

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the middle.

Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan.

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the eggs. Add the cooled, melted butter. Add the flour-cornmeal mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until the cornbread just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 23 minutes.

— Adapted from www.foodnetwork.com.

•••

Admission: I had never made homemade stuffing before preparing for this column.

There were myriad reasons. Onions and I don’t get along. I have a general dislike of “mushed-together” stuff.

(Yes, I sound like a 4-year-old.) And there is usually so much good stuff at Thanksgiving meals that it seemed no loss to skip just this one thing.

So, when I took over cooking Thanksgiving dinners, because my husband and assorted other family members are just fine with the boxed sort of stuffing mix, I went the easy route. A few boxes, a few minutes on the stove ... voila!

I always felt a little guilty, though. My mom is known for her stuffing. The recipe comes from a venerable cookbook she’s owned for decades, and it was a must for every family Thanksgiving. When Danielle pitched the idea for this column, I swallowed my pride, called and asked for her recipe. I think she was proud.

Honestly? It was a lot easier than I expected. The most time-consuming part is tearing up the bread, and I was able to deputize the whole family for that.

I’m still not a stuffing fan, but my family tells me this stuff is good. Even the 4-year-old ate it ... and that’s saying something.

— Jill Keppeler

Moist bread stuffing

1 cup butter or margarine

2 cups diced celery

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons pepper

16 cups lightly packed fresh bread cubes (I let it sit out for a while to become slightly stale)

3 eggs, slightly beaten

About 40 minutes before serving:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter or margarine in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook celery and onions in hot butter until tender, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper; mix well.

Toss bread cubes with lightly beaten eggs. Pour hot mixture into bread mixture; mix well.

Grease casserole dish; spoon mixture into it. Bake for about 30 minutes. The recipe also makes enough stuffing for one 8- to 11-pound turkey.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116, and reporter Jill Keppeler at ext. 4313.