Make-Ahead Stuffing For Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner


November marks one of the busiest entertaining seasons of the year. I’m from the “make it ahead to avoid the last-minute stress/hassle” school. Join the class and make your stuffing early. Prepare one stuffing to accommodate the non-gluten part of the family and another for the traditional stuffing family group and then you’ll have time to spend in the living room with entire clan on Thanksgiving day.

For the cornbread stuffing, some cooks add bacon fat to the melted butter for flavor but I use equal parts of avocado oil and unsalted butter. Nonetheless, this stuffing has a rich flavor and unique texture from chestnuts (found in the specialty section of the market) and cranberries that add the perfect piquant balance to it.

A rice-based stuffing with mushrooms, spinach, and sundried tomatoes is a magnificent side dish in and of itself. If it’s baked inside the turkey, it’s equally ideal because the herbs add flavor to the white meat but it tastes lighter than a typical stuffing. Bon appétit!

Cornbread, Chestnut And Cranberry Stuffing(Enough for a 15-pound turkey,
 with leftovers)For classic cornbread: (Makes 1, 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf)1 and 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 cup sifted flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 and 1/2 cups milk

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 and 1/2 sticks) or combination of avocado oil and butterFor the stuffing:2 to 3 tablespoons avocado oil (or olive oil)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

About 8 leaves fresh sage, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

About 2 cups cooked chestnuts (found in gourmet section of the market), rough chopped

1 cup raw or unsweetened sundried cranberries, or more to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 to 1 cup hot turkey or chicken stock or more if needed for moistening

Melted butter for drizzlingTo prepare the cornbread: (one week ahead and refrigerate or freeze)Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously grease and flour the loaf pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with milk and melted butter/oil until combined. Pour the liquids into the center of the dry ingredients and with a spoon stir until moistened.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center and the top is brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan set on a rack for five to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, label, and refrigerate or freeze.To prepare the stuffing: (one to two days ahead and refrigerate)In a large skillet over moderate heat, add oil, and when hot, add the onion, garlic, celery, and sauté until soft and translucent, about three to four minutes.

Add bell pepper, herbs, salt and pepper and sauté about two minutes.

Stir in chestnuts and cranberries and sauté until browned and the mixture is aromatic, about four minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Meanwhile, cut the cornbread into cubes and transfer to a large bowl.

Toss the onion/chestnut mixture with the cornbread and gently mix together.

Taste and correct the seasonings.

Transfer to zip-lock bags and refrigerate for two days or freeze up to one month. Defrost in the refrigerator before stuffing the turkey or baking in a casserole dish.

To stuff the turkey, add only enough stock as necessary for the stuffing to hold its shape in a large spoon. It should neither be very wet, nor very dry, just moist.

To bake separately, drizzle stock and butter over stuffing and bake at 350 degrees F until hot and brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Can be reheated while the turkey rests.Brown And White Rice Stuffing With Mushrooms And Spinach(Enough for 10- to 12-pound turkey)2 cups white rice

2 cups brown rice

1/3 cup unsalted butter or olive oil combo

4 stalks celery with leaves, diced

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, diced

4 sprigs sage, leaves chopped

1 teaspoon dry marjoram

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 to 3 quarts turkey or chicken stock, boiling

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, washed, stems removed, sliced

1 pound fresh baby spinach, washed, coarsely chopped

1 cup slivered sun dried tomatoes, not in olive oil

About 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 to 1 cup hot chicken stock for moistening, as needed

Melted butter for drizzlingTo prepare:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large heavy casserole or Dutch oven over moderate heat, melt the butter/oil.

Add celery and onion and sauté until soft and translucent.

Add brown and white rice, sage, marjoram, salt, pepper, and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, place in the oven and bake until rice is tender, and the liquid is absorbed, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over high heat, coat the bottom with oil and when hot, add mushrooms and sauté, stirring constantly, until they squeak, about five minutes and set aside.

When the rice is done, stir mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomatoes and parsley into the hot rice. Return casserole to oven and bake uncovered for five minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasonings and cool to room temperature. Transfer to zip-lock bags and refrigerate for two days or freeze up to one month. Defrost in the refrigerator before stuffing the turkey.

To bake separately, empty the stuffing into the baking/casserole dish that will accommodate the stuffing. Drizzle stock and butter or olive oil on top to keep the stuffing moist.

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