Abi points out that this is technically “dressing” rather than “stuffing” because I make it as a side dish rather than use it to actually fill the Thanksgiving or Christmas bird. In fact, it’s probably hearty enough to act as a meal in its own right. Because I usually only make this twice a year, I tend to forget how I did it from year to year. So here’s the written version.
- 8 slices of white bread
- 250g fatty bacon bits
- 250g chopped carrots (about two carrots)
- 125g chopped celery (about three stalks)
- 350g chopped apples (about three apples, peeled and cored)
- some sage, thyme, and mild paprika powder
- two generous tablespoons of cranberry compote (or jam, or sauce)
- 400ml (approx) chicken fond or other rich stock
The slices of bread have to be dried out. I spread them on a rack and put them in a warm oven (100°C) for about 40 minutes, turning them over half way through.
While the bread is drying in the oven, get busy with the rest of the ingredients. Start by frying the bacon bits in a large thick-bottomed pan until they are brown and crispy and have given up most of their fat. Start on a high heat, and once it’s up to temperature, take it low and slow.
While the bacon is frying, chop the carrots, celery, and apples. The carrot should be chopped reasonably thinly. (Paper thin and they’ll burn too easily, diced and they’ll take too long to soften all the way through.) The apple chunks can be a bit bigger.
Once the bacon is ready (see above), remove the bacon bits from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind in the pan. Keep the bacon bits aside for later. Don’t eat them all in the meantime. Put the carrots and celery into the pan, and stir them around to give them a nice coating of bacon fat. Cook them on a medium heat until they take on a nice bit of colour. If they look like they’re too dry and in danger of burning, add a little olive oil.
Add the chopped apples to the pan, put the lid on the pan, and let the mix steam for a bit while the apples give up their moisture. Take the lid off and give the mixture an occasional stir until the apples have softened and collapsed a bit, but not turned to mush.
By this point, the bread in the oven should be dry. Take the slices out of the oven, put them in a bowl, and use a potato masher to turn them into a mixture of mostly fine breadcrumbs, with some larger bits left intact.
Return the bacon bits to the pan. Add the cranberry compote and the herbs, stir them together, and check for taste. (A little dried sage goes a long way. Don’t over-do it.) Add the breadcrumbs and the fond, and mix. It will end up as a rough but gooey mass. Spread it out evenly in an oven-proof dish.
Cook in the oven at about 200°C for 20-30 minutes, until it gets slightly crispy and nicely browned on top.
Time from putting the slices of bread in the oven to taking the finished product out of the oven at the end: about 1h 45m. Which is why I made it today, rather than leaving it to tomorrow. Abi likes this stuffing on its own, but personally I prefer it with a bit of gravy. It keeps in the fridge for a couple of days, or less if there are more people around the house.