When Thanksgiving rolls around, we expect certain foods to be on the buffet. Like stuffing. Or dressing. Dressing, or stuffing? A stuffing by any other name…
Some people say that it should be called dressing unless it’s cooked inside the bird. But in our family, it’s always been called stuffing, so that’s what I call it. I don’t actually stuff my turkey, though. I follow the Alton Brown school of thought; he stuffs the turkey with aromatics, because he feels that stuffing draws moisture out of the bird (making the meat drier). But everybody expects a little stuffing with their Thanksgiving meal, whether you’re stuffing a turkey or not, so I like to prepare a batch in the slow cooker. This frees up oven space and makes the holiday prep just a little less manic. Knowing that the stuffing is slowly cooking, filling the air with delicious herby aroma, gives me one less thing to worry about.
I make my Thanksgiving stuffing with the ultimate Jewish bread– challah! When cubed and toasted, this eggy bread becomes the perfect sponge for savory chicken broth and herbs. I’ve found that the stuffing doesn’t need butter or margarine (and those unnecessary calories) to taste great. It has plenty of flavor and mouth-watering aroma from fresh herbs, a good quality chicken broth, and sautéed vegetables.
Think of this challah recipe as a base; you can add unique touches to make it your own. Some people integrate different spices, dried cranberries or sausage into their stuffing (if you are keeping kosher, use kosher sausage); I’ve added chestnuts in the past, which gave it a nice meatiness. This year I’m thinking about adding some kosher Merguez sausage to mine for a spicy kick!
Tip: If you want an extra chicken-y flavor in the stuffing, omit the first teaspoon of salt and dissolve 1 tsp of chicken consomme powder (or a bouillon cube) into the broth before adding to the challah cubes. Taste the stuffing and season with additional salt at the end of cooking, if desired– chicken powder can be quite salty, so be sure to taste and season with care.
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- 1 large challah (about 1 ½ lbs)
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb. celery, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 ½ tsp dried sage)
- 1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped (or 1 ½ tsp dried marjoram)
- 2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
- 1 quart chicken broth (4 cups)
- 1 lb. sliced white mushrooms
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Salt and pepper
You will also need
- Large sauté pan, large skillet, very large mixing bowl, 5 to 6 quart crock pot or slow cooker
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the challah into ½ inch cubes. Spread the cubes out across two baking sheets.
- Place the trays in the oven for about 12 minutes, switching trays on racks halfway through cooking, till the challah cubes are toasted and starting to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high. Sauté the onion and garlic for 6-7 minutes till softened and fragrant.
- Add the chopped carrots, celery, parsley, sage, marjoram and oregano to the pan. Sauté for 5-6 more minutes.
- Pour 2 ½ cups of chicken broth into the pan along with 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of black pepper. Remove from heat. Reserve remaining chicken broth.
- Heat up the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced mushrooms to the skillet. Sauté for 10 minutes till the mushrooms begin to brown and shrink in size. Remove from heat. You may need to cook the mushrooms in two batches depending on the size of your skillet.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine challah cubes, vegetable/chicken broth mixture, and mushrooms. Stir to blend all ingredients, making sure the challah cubes are evenly moistened. Add the beaten eggs to the mixture and stir till they are well mixed into the stuffing. The mixture may seem dry now, but wait to add more broth until it’s had a chance to cook—the liquid will slowly be absorbed by the bread.
- Spray the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray, then pour the challah mixture in.
- Turn slow cooker to high heat setting and cover the pot. Cook for 30 minutes on high. Check the stuffing to see if it seems dry; if it does, drizzle a little more broth over the top of the stuffing. Cover pot again and reduce heat to low.
- Let cook on low for 4 hours, checking and stirring every hour to make sure the stuffing isn’t too dry. If it is, add more broth—carefully, as it can easily go from the right texture to overly wet and mushy.
- After 4 hours, stir, taste, and add more salt or pepper, if desired. Switch to warm setting until ready to serve.