When I was little, all my food had to be mushy. Mushy cereal, mushy cookies in milk, mushy mushy. As I got a little older (we’re talking early to mid teens), crispy was my thing. I couldn’t stand things that were mushy. One of those things was stuffing. Stovetop brand, in particular, is one giant ball of bread smooshed together to make a lump of slightly spiced side dish fare. It was no good in my book and I wanted nothing to do with it. At the same time, my mom would prepare her own stuffing recipe for the holidays and I formed a cross with my fingers and hissed and ran away. Part of it was the idea of more mushy stuffing; the other part was all those onions. The woman murdered so many onions that I was crying in my bedroom at the back of the house. The smell was that potent. Plus, I also didn’t like the taste of onions, so, yeah. Lots of reasons to not like stuffing of any kind.
Now, fast forward to, oh I don’t know, college? I’m home for Christmas (I was too broke to fly home to Hawaii from Seattle for Thanksgiving), mom’s re-creating a Thanksgiving feast, and somehow, just somehow, the smell of the stuffing baking in the oven pleases me. I decide to give it a little try at dinner. What’s the worst that could happen? I swallow it like a big girl and chase it with something more appetizing. Not the end of the world.
I plate up, spoon a little of the— whoa, wait a second. This isn’t mushy? What the hell? It’s crisp! It’s almost potato chip crunchy and softly clinks as it hits my plate. Okay, maybe this won’t be torture. I scoop it up with my fork, I bring it to my mouth, I shove it in and bite down. …
WHY DID I AVOID IT THIS LONG?
It was a slice of heaven. It was flavorful, it was crunchy on the outside but moist (not mushy!) on the inside. Sage, thyme, parsley, butter, the onion I had come to hate with a passion… oh man.
So now that I had finally tried what I had shunned for so long and I loved it, I had to get that recipe and memorize it for later on in life. Like now! When it’s my turn to serve up Thanksgiving dinner year after year. The great thing about the recipe is that you can make a huge batch of it and freeze it for up to a year or so. It comes out of the freezer ready to bake and is just as good a year later as it was the day you made it.
Without further ado, I give you my mum’s stuffing. The serving size is a 1/2 loaf that feeds 3-4 people (depending on appetite size) and obviously with 4 loafs, that’s 8 servings total. If you don’t want to make a full batch, cut this down to just one loaf of white or wheat bread and you’ll end up with two servings, or lots of little servings if there’s only one of you.
2 loaves cheap white bread
2 loaves cheap wheat bread
For every 1/2 loaf:
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage
3/4 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoons parsley (dried or fresh)
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup Crisco
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup boiling water
1) Cut the white and wheat breads into 1/2″ cubes and mix together. If you need a place to store the cubed bread, they can be reloaded into the bags they came out of, which will also give you a good idea of what a “1/2 loaf” is sized at. Small, stray pieces of bread are welcome in this recipe, e.g. tattered bread crusts, corners, etc.
2) Mix 1/2 loaf with appropriate amount of spices (as detailed above).
3) Melt the Crisco in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they are translucent and tender.
4) Put water in a small pot and bring to boil.
5) Add the spiced bread to skillet and spread it around evenly in the Crisco, tossing the pieces to get them coated as much as possible. Fry in the skillet until the bread turns light brown. Stir constantly. At this point, add the butter to the boiling water.
6) Take browned bread out of the skillet and place on a tray to cool. Pour melted butter and water over the bread.
7) Let the bread cool completely and repackage in the bread bag.
8) To serve with a meal, place stuffing on a rimmed baking sheet as a single layer and put in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t want it to burn, but you don’t want it mushy. The happy median is crispy to the touch, but gives a little when pressed down upon.
To reheat after freezing:
Take out of freezer, put on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer, cover in tin foil. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 for about 10 minutes. Remove the tin foil. Continue to bake for another 6-8 minutes, again looking for the happy median.