A classic stuffing is the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving feast. Cubes of dried herb-infused bread pair nicely with a big plate of turkey and vegetables. Good news! -you can make many parts of this recipe ahead of time.
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With all the stress of preparing for a big holiday meal, it’s nice to have a few easy recipes on your to-do list. This classic stuffing combines fresh herbs, bread cubes, and colorful chopped vegetables for a flavorful side dish. Your guests are going to love it!
The components are simple; dried bread cubes, aromatics, and a liquid custard. Once baked, the eggs set and create a souffle-like texture. If you’re tight on stove and oven space, you can bake the bread in advance or assemble everything the day before and chill until ready to bake and serve.
Grab a fresh french bread or sourdough loaf; you know, the large ones used to make garlic bread. The crumbs are light and airy, which makes for a stuffing that’s not too dense. Buying a large loaf and then cutting it down allows you to control the cube size.
I recommend buying about a 1 pound loaf. The cubes will shrink down after drying, so it’s better to have extra. Typically, day-old bread works best, but I use a fast oven drying technique to stale the bread.
Cut and dry the bread
Cut the bread into ¾-inch cubes. This size helps keep the structure intact once soaked. If the pieces are too small, the texture becomes similar to store-bought boxed options with fine-sized crumbs that usually end up a mushy mess.
Baking at a moderate 350ºF (177ºC) will quickly stale the bread and remove most moisture. I use a similar technique when making homemade croutons. Look for them to turn dry and crisp, but not overly browned. Let them cool down on the warm sheet pan to dry out further. If you’re tight on time, you can purchase dried cubed breadcrumbs. You will need 12 cups.
Saute the aromatics
To build a flavorful stuffing base, saute the vegetables and herbs. The chopped onions and celery cook in hot butter to bring out their natural sweetness and add a light browning on the surface for more flavor. This also helps the fat-soluble compounds in the minced garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme to enhance the butter’s taste. This process is called blooming. The herbs unlock much more aromatic oils.
Substituting dried herbs for fresh
You can easily substitute dried herbs for the sage, rosemary, and thyme. Although, use half the amount called for since the dried products are more concentrated. Pre-blended poultry seasonings consist of a good swap. It consists of a variety of herbs like thyme, sage, marjoram, black pepper, and nutmeg. Use 1 tablespoon.
Add a savory custard
To bind the bread cubes together, mix together whole eggs and chicken broth or stock. For every 4 cups of dried bread cubes, you need 1 large egg and 1 cup of liquid. This ratio creates a tender and airy custard structure that does not become curdled and rubbery in texture after baking.
Let the bread soak for at least 5 minutes before baking to absorb the egg mixture. Transfer the stuffing to a 9×13-inch baking dish. At this point, you can cover the casserole and refrigerate for up to 1 day before baking. You may need to extend the bake time as the mixture will be cold.
Bake the stuffing
Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. This technique will allow the eggs to cook in a steamy environment trapped under the foil. Once you remove the cover, the surface will dry and create a nice contrast in texture. It’s important to bake the stuffing until the center reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC). This is the temperature that eggs cook and are no longer raw.
What to serve this with
Dry the bread for better flavor absorption
Fresh bread contains a lot of moisture and must be dried; otherwise, the stuffing texture will be soft. Once dried, the newly created spaces in the crumb act like a sponge, soaking up the flavorful liquid molecules from the custard’s seasonings.
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- 1 pound french loaf, or sourdough loaf
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, or olive oil
- 1 cup diced red onion, or yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup diced celery, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- Set the oven rack to the lower and upper-middle position. Preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Slice the bread into ¾-inch cubes and then spread in a single layer on two large sheet pans. There should be about 16 cups of cubes.
- Toast the cubes in the oven until the edges are dry and crisp, about 10 minutes, gently stirring after 5 minutes. Allow to completely cool on the sheet pan while cooking the rest of the stuffing. The bread will completely dry out. Transfer 12 cups of the toasted bread to a large bowl. There will be extra bread to use as desired.
- Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in the pan, then add in the onions and celery, saute until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.
- Add parsley and garlic powder to the bread mixture and gently stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and chicken stock. Pour the liquid evenly over the bread, gently stir to combine. Allow soaking for 5 minutes.
- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with vegetable oil, softened butter, or cooking spray. Evenly spread the stuffing mixture into the pan.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the internal temperature reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC) and the surface is slightly dry, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the stuffing warm.
- Recipe Yield: 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Substituting store-bought bread: Use 12 cups of dried bread cubes instead of the fresh bread loaf.
- Using dried herbs: Use half the amount of the fresh herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), a total of 1 tablespoon dried. Poultry seasonings can also be used, add 1 tablespoon.
- Make-ahead: Cut and dry bread up to 5 days before using, store in an airtight container. Combine all of the stuffing ingredients, cover, refrigerate, and bake within 1 day. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove and continue to bake until the internal temperature reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC) and the surface is dry.
- Reheating: Cool the baked stuffing, cover, and refrigerate. Warm individual portions on high power in the microwave in 30-second intervals until warm. Alternatively, heat in a 300ºF (149ºC) oven until warmed through.
- Make it DAIRY-FREE: Substitute olive oil for butter.
- Make it GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free bread.
- Make it VEGETARIAN: Use unsalted vegetable stock or broth instead of chicken.
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