This savory dressing recipe is more of a guideline than an exact recipe. You can create your own version using your favorite combinations of bread, herbs, dried fruits or nuts. Some years I like to use all sourdough bread, and other years I use a mixture of multigrain bread and french bread. Mostly, I use whatever bread I have on hand!
And here's my secret ingredient – I make a "short-cut" roasted turkey stock that is used for the dressing and the gravy. Purchase extra turkey boney parts, such as wings and necks. (I generally use about 8 turkey wings.) Wash, dry and place turkey parts in roasting pan. Cut up a large onion into chunks and spread evenly over turkey parts in roasting pan. Add several whole, peeled garlic cloves. Add a carrot or two, chopped into 1 inch pieces, if desired. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Sprinkle genrously with salt and pepper and place in 425°F oven for 45 minutes, or until turkey pieces are golden brown and onion is caramelized. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
In large stock pot, place 2 -3 quarts of homemade chicken stock or purchased chicken broth. Add the turkey parts, roasted vegetables and cooking juices to the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain. This will make enough rich flavored turkey stock for both the dressing and the gravy.
12 cups, cut into 1/2-inch bread cubes, plus 2 cups finely ground fresh bread crumbs (use a food processor) from a couple loaves of dense, crusty Italian or French bread
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (ground)
1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 pounds bulk Italian sausage or quality pork sausage with sage
6 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup brandy
3 medium celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, broken into large pieces
3 large eggs
1 quart chicken or turkey stock (or part milk and stock)
Optional: a few tablespoons of additional melted butter
Prepare bread cubes and bread crumbs and place in very large mixing bowl. Set aside.
To bread cube mixtures, add Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, orange zest and fresh parsley. Toss to combine well. Set aside.
In large sauté pan, crumble and cook sausage until no longer pink. Add to bread cube mixture.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in large sauté pan. Add chopped onions and cook until onions begin to caramelize. When the onions are golden brown, add brandy. Stir and continue cooking until brandy is reduced to a syrup consistency. Add to bread cube mixture.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in sauté pan. Add chopped celery and cook for five minutes, or until slightly softened. Add to bread cube mixture.
Toss cranberries and pecans in bread cube mixture. Using your hands or large spoon, combine the dressing ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and stock (or part milk and stock). Pour 1/3 of mixture over dressing mixture. Mix lightly. Add the last of the egg-stock mixture to the dressing and mix to combine.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spray a large casserole dish or baking pan with vegetable non-stick spray. Spoon the dressing into the prepared dish. (Drizzle an additional 3-4 tablespoons of butter on top of the dressing, if desired, for a crustier finish.) Cover with foil, with one small slit cut in the middle.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking an additional 25-30 minutes, or until dressing is golden brown and crusty.
Replace cranberries with chopped prunes, apricots or chopped tart apples.
Replace pecans with chopped chestnuts.