No, we, alas, won’t be hosting meals for twelve people crammed around the dining room table this year, but I imagine most of us will be preparing a Thanksgiving meal for our “bubble” of two or four. And although the get-togethers will be small, they’ll still be joyous and delicious. And come Thursday night, “stuffed” is how the majority of folks in the country will no doubt feel.

Stuffing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal (especially when slathered with rich, turkey gravy), and when asked to bring a side dish to the holiday, I always volunteer to bring my home-made stuffing…or would that be dressing?

wild turkeys fighting in Robin’s parents’ backyard

Okay, so what is the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing”? My family has always said stuffing, but Robin’s mom says she uses the two interchangeably. Curious, I googled the two words, and learned this:

In the middle ages, stuffing was known as “farce,” from the Latin farcire and French farcir, meaning to stuff. [Fun side-note: A “farce” originally denoted a brief, lighthearted play stuffed in between lengthy religious productions to keep the audience from getting bored.] The English term “forcemeat”—for a chopped meat mixture, such as in sausage—evolved from the French word “farce.”

The term “stuffing”—the English translation of “farce”—first appeared in English print in 1538. According to various sources I found online, the term “stuffing” apparently did not appeal to the propriety of the Victorian upper crust, and around 1880 the term “dressing” began to be employed instead. (Pinkies raised, everyone!)

Nowadays, both words—stuffing and dressing—are used in the U.S. Some people say “dressing” to refer to that which is cooked outside the bird (i.e., as a separate casserole), and “stuffing” when it’s inside the bird. But mostly, it seems, folks employ one or the other term for both methods.

I found a great discussion on the Chowhound website which posed these questions regarding the stuffing/dressing issue: “What do you call it?” and “Where are you from?” From the long list of responses, I gather there is no longer much rhyme or reason, nor geographic relation, to the usage.

For my stuffing, I usually go a pretty traditional route: bread cubes, Italian pork sausage, celery, onions, apples, and walnuts. The amounts of the ingredients aren’t all that important; just go with what seems right.

First I brown the sausage and then add chopped onion and some herbs de Provence, garlic powder and black pepper to the pan. Once the onions have softened a bit, I add the celery and continue cooking for another minute or two.

I then dump the sautéed sausage and veg into a large bowl and add bread cubes, chopped walnuts, and diced apples. Mix it all up together (go on—use your hands!), and then crack some eggs into the glop, to act as a binding agent:

Finally, pour a little stock into the mix, to keep it moist and add extra flavor.

Oil the inside of a casserole well (it’ll stick like the dickens if you omit this step), and fill the casserole with the raw stuffing. You can prepare it up to this step a day before the Big Day.

If you make it in advance, take the casserole out of the fridge a few hours before baking. Pour a little oil or melted butter on the top of the stuffing, and bake it uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until it browns on top.

Yum! (And it makes for great leftovers!) Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Readers: Do you have a favorite style of stuffing/dressing, and what do you call it?

31 thoughts on “Stuffed

  1. I guess I use them interchangeably. Your recipe sounds delicious. Leslie.

    When I do a whole turkey, it’s a toss-up on what I cheat with. But this year we are only doing a turkey breast, so I am doing the sausage and mushroom stuffing that my husband likes. And a Dutch apple pie, and real mashed potatoes for my daughter. It’s all about the sides this year.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I fix the traditional bread stuffing my grandmother made, and it goes inside the bird. But I adore that side dish so much that it’s never enough. So I also make dressing to go in the oven. But my twist is lining the casserole pan with thick-sliced deli turky and putting more slices on top. That way the bread cubes don’t feel so naked!

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  3. We don’t have a real turkey here, and the vegan “turkey” loaf we buy comes with stuffing already inside so I don’t give it much thought. And I’ve always called it stuffing instead of dressing. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  4. We call it stuffing here in New England, but I have heard some refer to it as dressing as well.
    My husband and I use our mom’s recipes. They were just about identical only my mom used bread and his mom used common crackers. So we alternate. This is a cracker year. The rest of the recipe is like yours, Leslie.
    I just looked outside because I heard the wild turkeys in the back yard. We usually have 10 that come every day, and we feed them. Today there are 30. They have been joined by the males. I wasn’t going outside today as it is pouring out, but when I saw so many and some were yelling under the window, I went out with my raincoat and got soaking wet, but the birds are happy. Probably happy to know we won’t be eating them on Thursday. We don’t eat what we have been introduced to. LOL! Happy THanksgiving!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Cracker stuffing sounds good–will have to try it one of these days!

      I miss seeing the wild turkeys at Robin’s folks’ house (it was sold some years back). But now we have them in Santa Cruz, as well, so I get to see them on my bike rides. Such gorgeous birds!


  5. Leslie, this looks so good! I noticed you made it in a cast iron pan. Does that add to the flavor?

    Stuffing is my favorite side dish too. I don’t have a favorite and just had an idea for a future party meal- a stuffing bar, where people get to taste all kinds! (Note to self: bank idea for future book.)

    As to the stuffing/dressing debate. It’s always been stuffing in my world. But when I went to school in the south, I noticed a lot more use of dressing. Which made it confusing in NOLA when someone ordered a sandwich “dressed:” which means with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t think the cast iron pan adds any flavor; it’s just my favorite go-to pan to cook in, as it distributes the heat so evenly. (And it’s big!)

      I’m thinking “dressing” is used mostly in the South these days, as a vestige of the time when it was considered rude to talk about “stuffing” in polite company, lol.


  6. The stuffing my mother makes is wonderful. Not sure what she puts in it, since I haven’t helped with it in the last 25 years (not sure about before then, but I don’t remember helping with it then either.)

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This looks delicious, Leslie — best Thanksgiving wishes to you and Robin! We’ve always called it dressing in my family, and I like it topped with cranberry sauce! This year we’re going to roast a small duck instead of turkey breast. I enjoy duck at restaurants, but this will be my first attempt at cooking it myself!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. We have stuffing at Casa Clark. I used to do fancy everything when the kids were little, until the first year I did NaNoWriMo and went with StoveTop. Everyone was just as happy. That’s what I’m going with this year too. I wasn’t going to have it at all because I heard dire warnings about stuffing shortages, but at the store yesterday they had tons, so I picked up a box. Maybe I’ll chop up an apple in it this year, or raisins. We downsized to chicken this year, instead of turkey, mashed yams with pecans, roasted asparagus, and I’m going all out this year with dessert. Dumping a couple of cans of cherry pie filling into a pre-made chocolate cookie crust. Again, an after-thought when I heard the crusts calling to me with their siren song.

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  9. First, your photos are mouthwatering, Leslie! You are truly an artist. Half my family here in New England/NY loves “stuffing”–and the other hates it with a passion. But we’re talking StoveTop here, not the arty deal. My trick is to always buy the chicken version, not turkey, because it’s lighter. It’s always the last thing to be made, usually while someone is frantically stirring gravy, so the 5-min. version is key. I add extra water to make it moister. (As in…a lotta water.) It’s all in those important finishing details, ha! (Actually, the main point of stuffing in my view is to serve as an extra sandwich layer.)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pinkies up, lol! We call it stuffing.

    Is it weird that I never think about or crave it all year long, but I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving or Christmas without it?

    Also: prefer it as leftover item, cold from fridge. Yum.

    Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your culinary expertise!

    Liked by 1 person

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