November 21, 2019
Let’s all acknowledge that there are just some things that stand the test of time as perfect partners. Who can argue the perfection of peanut butter & jelly, bacon & eggs; where would we be without Proctor & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson? And let’s not forget perfect couples, Fred & Ginger, Simon & Garfunkel, Huntley & Brinkley (dating myself) Batman & Robin, me & George Clooney (a girl can dream). But, it’s Thanksgiving, so we pay homage to the classic duo of turkey and stuffing!
In culinary school we were taught that one of the most common causes of food poisoning results when the turkey is cooked with the stuffing inside of it. The Center for Disease Control, (CDC) suggests that you wait until 2 hours before the turkey is done to stuff it, which I can assure you, is immensely impractical, as well as messy and awkward. I can just picture myself, klutz that I am, picking the hot turkey up off the floor, because I was tentatively trying to maneuver it, so I could stuff the bird.Then watch as the bird slips, slides and flies, through my hands, off the counter and on to the floor. It takes all that I’ve got to stick my hand into the turkey to pull out the bag of giblets, when I’m prepping the bird. So, adding stuffing to a hot bird will not be a consideration for me.
I have an iron stomach, so the food poisoning issue is not really why cooking the stuffing inside the bird is not my choice. It’s having had to endure my sister’s inside-the-bird stuffing. To be fair, it was her late husband’s mother’s recipe. It was white Wonder Bread, with carrots, celery, onion, sage, a lot of flavorless liquid, then stuffed into the bird. Gross, would be a kind descriptor. Disgusting, more accurate. But, kudos to my sister, she also has added a second more palatable dressing to her repertoire, for those of us who will not even go near the “inside the bird” gunk.
My vote is to cook the “stuffing” outside the bird in a casserole dish which is not officially “dressing." Dressing can be more versatile. It’s less messy, and you can incorporate a variety of ingredients to make it more interesting, with no worry about the internal temperature of the turkey and stuffing, so you avoid sending home guests with salmonella.
If I plan, which is not my usual nature, I try to bake some cornbread a few days ahead of Thanksgiving. Or, in a pinch, I will start with Mrs. Cubbinson’s corn bread stuffing mix as a base. Then, I check out the refrigerator to see what sounds interesting. I always have carrots, celery, onions around to add. Then, maybe some throw in some mushrooms, nuts, (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts), apples, sausage, chestnuts, oysters. There are so many choices, and you can taste as you go, to improve, change or dump it out and start again.
This year for the first time I will not be celebrating Thanksgiving with my immediate and extended family. Instead, I have been invited to join a group of wonderful, warm and welcoming Waitsburg friends. My ex-husband will be visiting me for Thanksgiving (a VERY long story for another day). He is a professional chef, born and raised in Milan, Italy. I voted (and he agreed, after all he is a guest), to make butternut squash risotto, adding an international feel to our feast. Happy Thanksgiving, whether you choose stuffing, dressing or risotto. Enjoy!