3 Ways to Up Your  Stuffing Game this Thanksgiving

By Megan Greenberg for
Photography by Kathryn Brass-Piper

What is this mega-nonsense of eating what is probably one of the best dishes in creation only once a year? There’s nothing special about that— that’s just masochism.

Whether you call this Turkey Day treat stuffing, dressing, filling, or—my preferred term of endearment—“hand me that bowl and leave me alone with it,” one thing we can all agree on is it deserves its rightful place on the table.

Northerners often toss in local finds like chestnuts; Bostonians are famous for their oyster- based stuffings. Some people use breadcrumbs, some use cornbread, and many around the country have gone gluten-free with rice-based recipes. Smother it with gravy, mix it with your mashed potatoes, let it shine on its own—all of these details are irrelevant. The main thing to accomplish on Thanksgiving is to eat stuffing. A lot of stuffing. Gorge yourself upon it as it will most likely be a whole year before you are able to gobble it down again.

We’ve compiled a few different recipes from some of our favorite chefs in Sarasota, each of whom has taken a unique approach to this stupendous side dish. From pine nuts to fennel to white cheddar, you’ll find that, when it comes to stuffing, the sky’s the limit. Because that’s how high you should pile it on your plate. Move over, turkey, these chefs are showing us why stuffing is the real star.

Breakfast sausage and fennel are two of the stand-out ingredients that take this stuffing from Sarasota’s Blue Rooster restaurant to the next level.

1 pound breakfast sausage, bulk or links with casings removed
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved for serving
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
8 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bosc pears, peeled and chopped
½ cup dry white wine
8 cups dried-out cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups chicken broth

Heat oven to 400°. Cook sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to large bowl and let cool. Reduce heat to medium and melt 8 tablespoons butter in now empty skillet. Add fennel, carrots, celery, scallions, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until tender. Add pears and wine, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until most of wine is evaporated. Transfer mixture to bowl with sausage.

Add cornbread, herbs, and eggs to sausage mixture. Add broth, ½ cup at a time, until moist but not soggy. Transfer dressing to buttered baking dish and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and crispy, 20—30 minutes. Serve topped with reserved fennel fronds.

Courtesy of Blue Rooster; Sarasota, FL.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
6 cups day-old italian bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
¾ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup chopped italian parsley
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 400°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are soft. Add sundried tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in bread, egg, cheese, pine nuts, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth, ½ cup at a time, until mixture is moistened but not wet. Transfer mixture to a buttered baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Courtesy of Cafe Gabbiano; Sarasota, FL.

½ pound bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1½ cups finely chopped onion
1½ cups finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 cups toasted challah, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

Heat oven to 375°. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy over medium-low heat. Transfer bacon to a plate, keeping fat in skillet. Add 2 tablespoons butter to skillet and melt over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add reserved bacon, challah, eggs, and stock, ½ cup at a time, until mixture is moistened but not wet. Add 1 cup cheese, thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish and dot with remaining butter. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with remaining cheese and bake until browned slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Open mouth and take a bite.

Courtesy of Indigenous; Sarasota, FL.

Healthy Southern Style Collard Greens
Spiced Sweet Potato Tart

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