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?
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?