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To Stuff or Not to Stuff

by Chef Scotty Wagner
Wednesday Dec 18, 2013

Wafting aromas of rosemary and roasted garlic, chit chat amongst relatives and friends, washed down with Sailor Jerry-laced apple cider, piles of Yukon gold potato peels scattered about the kitchen sink... it's that time of year. The holidays are a time for togetherness, tenderness and turkey stuffing heavenliness!

Stuffing is most often made from the infamous Stouffer's red box and while it's always herbed deliciousness, it is right here and now that we will remove the unknown, so you can create a truly ravenous and fabulous stuffing that borders on the brink of aphrodisiac overload!

Let us begin with the question, "To stuff or not stuff the Christmas goose?" Talk about a loaded question! The truth of the matter is that your bird, which ever you may choose, will cook quicker without cramming it full of butter-laden bread-bits. Likewise, the natural fat drippings aid the internal steaming of an open cavity to ensure that the flesh will be tender and moist. It is this rationale that warrants one's consideration regarding cooking your stuffing separately. (If nothing else... you most likely don't want to poison your less-than-favorite brother-in-law with a serious dose of salmonella -- at least not at Christmastime.)

On the upside, stuffing cooked "outside the bird" has much more going for it, including superb taste and texture. As long as you douse the stuffing with good stock, along with ample fat (be that pan-drippings, bacon fat or butter, etc.) and bake the stuffing with a cover to start, then uncovered for a time, you will end up with the delightful contrast of lovely crisp toasted bread edges, covering a jumble of tender mirepoix and moist innards.

Truth be told, I've never been a fan of stuffing cooked on the inside. It tends to be to one-dimensional and a mushy mess. There are so many other texturally soft offerings on the table in the form of mashed potatoes, sweet potato purée, cranberry sauce and of course the pumpkin pie. So a crunchy, caramelized stuffing is clearly the way to go.


BREAD: Wheat, French batard, sourdough, rye, or a great cornbread, etc.
*Cut bread into large dice then toast in oven until golden and crisp.

FAT: Bacon or bird drippings, some herb infused oils, or butter.
*Coat and soak cubed bread in warm fat (warm is important).

SPICES: Poultry seasoning, cumin, Italian herb blend, garlic powder, chili flake, random rubs and tubs, flavored salts, etc.
*In a garbage bag, combine all the spiced goods as you please and shake!

VEGGIES AND SUCH: Onion, celery, roasted red bell pepper, garlic, fennel, raisin, dried cherry, apples, assorted stonefruit, walnuts, you get the point? ANYTHING YOU WANT!
*In a large baking dish, surround bird with combined ingredients and add some water, stock or milk as you so desire, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered, then 30 minutes uncovered and ta-da!

HAPPY STUFFING, AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS! From Chef Scotty and the Indulchi Team

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