Let's talk about stuffing. Or, rather, dressing. I think some people take the difference between the two terms very seriously, but in our house, even though the only thing it stuffs is our bellies, it's always been stuffing.
For the past two years, I've been dying to make a homemade stuffing. I dreamed of toasted cubes of artisanal breads, sauteed wild mushrooms, buttered leeks, and woodsy rosemary and sage. Despite the deliciousness of the stuffing that we have made every year since I can remember, I was fully willing to cast it aside for a "foodier" (a word I just made up meant to signify more "foodie"-like; reminds me of "truthiness," but I digress...) recipe. You see, we use the Pepperidge Farms stuffing cubes in our recipe. Unfortunately, my food snob mentality had me believing that the entire product was pre-made (like that jiggly cranberry mold that comes from the can) and therefore unacceptable on our Thanksgiving table.
And then, a revelation.
Like so many things on this great earth of ours, the revelation came from Ina Garten. I was watching a Thanksgiving episode of hers, and she made stuffing with the same Pepperidge Farm stuffing cubes that we do! If it's good enough for Ina, it's certainly good enough for me. (I did not, however, approve of her serving cupcakes for Thanksgiving dessert. Really, Ina? I know it wasn't her actual Thanksgiving dinner, but the thought is unsettling enough.) Gosh, I am such a food snob.
Anyway, this recipe is so delicious that I've convinced my mom that we need to make two pans to keep up with people's demands for it. The recipe below makes only one pan and that will certainly be enough if you don't have ravenous stuffing-philes in your home.
Unlike many stuffing recipes, this one contains no meat and no butter. It does contain savory mushrooms and celery, which are moistened with chicken stock and baked with those bread cubes into a tried and true stuffing that is just as delicious covered in gravy, on a turkey sandwich, or completely unadorned (my preference). You would never guess that ingredients this simple could make something so incredibly scrumptious.
Rogovin Family Stuffing
You can assemble the stuffing early in the day (or the night before) and refrigerate it, covered in aluminum foil, until you are ready to bake it. The oven temperature and baking time are pretty flexible. We bake the stuffing at 325 because it cooks along with the more delicate carrot ring. However, you could increase the baking temperature and decrease the time accordingly to suit your baking schedule. Just look for visual cues that the stuffing is done: a moist interior and crunchy top layer.
Yield: 10-12 servings
8 ounced cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
5 stalks of celery, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 bag of Pepperidge Farm herbed stuffing cubes
Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix mushrooms and celery with chicken stock. Add stuffing cubes and toss to coat. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is golden and toasty. Serve hot.