Not completely true. While I’ll mix up the menu with various vegetable side dishes, give my turkey brine a tweak every few years, and (much to my husband’s dismay) refuse to allow both mashed potatoes and potato gratin Dauphinois to simultaneously grace the table, there’s one dish that remains the same no matter what else is on the sideboard: stuffing.
Oddly enough, even though one half of my family were reserved Lutherans and the other half were crazy Italians, there was never a turf war on the stuffing front. No sausage, no oysters, no mushrooms, no cornbread, no frou-frou—this was the Way It Was Made.
When it came time for my first impromptu post-college Thanksgiving—you know, the one where you and a few girlfriends decide you’re going to recreate all your childhood favorites and end up roasting the turkey in one of those disposable oven pans—I scribbled the recipe down from my stepmom and promptly lost the butter-stained piece of paper over a series of annual apartment moves.
Fast forward to the Real Thanksgiving set in my Real Home in 2007, when I started pulling together my first attempt at the Thanksgiving timeline only to realize the secret stuffing recipe was missing. Now a much more proficient cook and too embarrassed to admit to the family that I couldn’t remember how to make our stuffing, I turned in a panic to Epicurious.
Oh god. My family heirloom stuffing is basically torn from the pages of Bon Appetit.
Talk about embarrassing. What I had thought was a recipe passed down through generations is pretty much the most basic stuffing preparation on the planet. I think even the Mayflower crew was like, “oh, that old thing? Can’t we spice it up with a few swans and eagles?”
Oh well. With all the bells and whistles going on at my table, it’s good to have something simple—a comforting option to counteract the amuse-bouches and determinedly anti-pumpkin pies I throw at my dinner guests each year.
Though I’ve tweaked the recipe to reflect my obsession with sage and my family’s tendency to over-pepper everything (it ain’t stuffing at the Barber table until your tongue tingles), this is still a very straightforward stuffing. Every year I look at it and think about changing it, but when I dump that pile of onions and celery into a huge pan of melted butter and the aroma wafts through the house, I remember why I keep it as is.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 yellow onions, minced
- 6 sticks celery, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (we love a peppery stuffing; decrease the amount if you’re not as gung-ho about the spice)
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
- 1 loaf ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the stick of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the onions, celery, and salt and cook until the veggies are very soft and translucent, 10-15 minutes. Don’t let them brown if you can manage it; you want your veg to be luxuriously bathing in butter.
Add the black pepper, sage and parsley, cook for a minute more, then transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes or so.
While the veggies are in the fridge, spread the ciabatta cubes evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, enough to get a good edge on them but not long enough to brown them or turn them into croutons.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl until homogenously yellow. Add the chilled veggies and bread cubes and mix thoroughly. Stir in the broth a quarter cup at a time to allow the bread to evenly absorb the liquid; you may need to add more broth if it’s looking too dry, but don’t make it soggy.
Pour the stuffing into a 9×13-inch baking dish and bake for an hour or until crispy and browned on top.