Stuffed. In the bird or out, the stuffing is one of those foods that seem essential during the holidays. It is not a difficult dish to make if you have the right ingredients and a little time. Yes, it might take a bit of effort to create that new family classic, but it will be worth it. I will tell you that once you decide what additions you want for your filling, you can do it very quickly.

For any filling you will need:

BREAD – This can be a prepackaged seasoned filling from the grocery store. This type has small pieces of dry bread that already has the typical seasonings incorporated. You can get multiple versions or even a simple ‘filler mix’. They are convenient and thousands of people use them each year.

You can also bake cornbread the day before, let it cool, and then cut it into chunks to make your filling. The cornbread filling is also a classic that will be served to thousands of tables this year.

If you have a family member who loves filling but is on a restricted diet (low carb, diabetic, or on a glycemic diet), you can choose to use whole wheat bread. Whole grain breads can be purchased in loaves at a bakery and can sometimes be found packaged on the supermarket shelf. Of course, you always have the option of making your favorite recipe a day or two in advance.

It is important to use bread that is at least one day old. Day-old bread seems to absorb liquids more easily and produces a softer filling.

LIQUID – Once you have your bread, you will need the liquids. It is usually a good broth or broth that is added to dry breads. You can use homemade versions or one from the grocery store. I prefer the homemade one because I can control the salt and additives, but the choice is personal. For example, for the turkey stuffing, I usually drop all the gizzards, neck, excess skin, and bones into a large pot of water with a quartered onion and let it simmer on the stove for several hours. I also like Herb Ox broth that I can mix with water to make a broth. This brand has 0 salt and with a husband on a low salt diet it is a great find.

TRINIDAD ‘SANTA’ – Ok, well, it’s not really holy, but it’s the standard mix used in just about any filling. In fact, I can’t think of a time when I wouldn’t use it in a filling recipe. The trinity is simply onion, celery, and carrots. It is usually diced and cooked until tender in a saucepan with a little butter or oil. This gives the all-important base flavor to your filling.

ADDITIVES – You can add just about anything you want to the filling and have a delicious version your family will love. Fruit, nuts, oysters, cold cuts, whatever.

This is one of my family’s favorite versions. It’s simple but offers great flavor and is perfect with a good turkey sauce.

MOM PACAN AND BLUEBERRY STUFFING – Mom is me. I have been making this recipe for over 30 years and my family always complains if I try to make something different.

Will need:

  • 1 bag of herb-seasoned filling mix – regular or cornbread variety
  • 2-3 cups good turkey broth or broth (or you can use chicken)
  • 2 envelopes of Herb Ox chicken broth
  • 1 can of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup (approximately) trinity (1 small onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks diced)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 granny smith apple diced
  • 1 cup cranberry (dried raisins work well, but you can also use fresh or frozen cranberries)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the broth or broth in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until it starts to boil. Dissolve the broth, poultry seasoning, and soup in the broth. Turn off the heat and add the dried Craisins. Stir and cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the butter and add the trinity. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender and the onion translucent.

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and ‘broil’ about 5 minutes, hardening once, at 350 degrees F. This helps release the flavors of the pecans. You can also do this in a dry skillet on the stovetop, but usually my oven is already on and my burners are in use.

Pour the filling mixture (bread) into a large bowl. Add the chopped apple and walnuts and stir. Add the trinity mix. Pour in the broth (or broth) mixture and mix well. The filling should be very moist but not wet or soggy. Sometimes I have to add a little more broth. If you add more broth, make sure it is heated first.

Place the filling mixture on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I like to sprinkle some walnuts and Craisins on top. You can also use this to stuff the bird, just remember to never store leftover turkey with the stuffing inside. If you use it on the bird, use a thermometer to make sure the filling reaches at least 150 degrees.