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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Let's talk Stuffing.......

It's that time of year when stuffing talk is all the rage. And, you know I am a girl who has to get in on the action.....

So, this past weekend I took a little time out to attend a Stuffing Class at Williams Sonoma. If you've never attended one of their classes, I highly recommend them. They are free and you get to sample their luscious foods. Plus, the groups are small enough that there's lots of interaction. At our local store, they hold them on Sunday mornings before the store opens. They fill up rather quickly so you have to get your name on the list well in advance---which I did. Even though I had covetted a spot, come Sunday, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to go since I was trying not to have a schedule. However, since I had to drop Toni off at her Zumba (a cross between Latin dance & aerobics) class and there's a Starbucks within a few feet of the Williams Sonoma, I figured--what the hell. So, I dropped Toni off at the gym and I went to the class...with my Venti Chai Latte with an energy shot and a protein shot in hand. Yes, while my well-fit, petite daughter did Zumba, her not-all-that-fit-but-not-as-unfit-as-before mother did the polar opposite---I got involved in frying bacon, oohing and ahhhing over the use of sweet salted butter and became orgasmic at the smell of sausage-laden bread chunks. All calorie-free. What a wonderful time I had....

As the class progressed, I found myself chatting and sharing holiday cooking stories with a group of fun women who were standing nearby. They were all attending in support of their friend who was taking on the Thanksgiving turkey task for her extended family for the very first time. While her friends laughed and talked, the new turkey chef was focused completely on the stuffing demonstration. She was taking notes and asking questions and asking for clarifications on measurements, cooking times, ingredients, etc. About halfway through the demonstration, an older, very elegantly dressed woman spoke up. "You know, there is no real recipe for stuffing" she said--directing her comment to the new turkey cook. A hush fell over the group as we sat and waited for the demonstrator to say something--anything. Finally, the woman who was teaching us how to make stuffing chirped "yep! in fact, this is NOT how I make my stuffing!" At that, I could see the new turkey cook begin to sweat and fumble with her notebook. And so it began....the stuffing talk. As it does any time you are in a group of people discussing stuffing--everyone had their own recipe and we were all eager to share them.

Stuffing is a funny thing. There was not one recipe the same. Sausage. Chestnuts. Oysters. Apples. Cranberries. Ground meat. Ham. Ricotta. Biscuits. Cornbread. Eggs. Day-old bread. Toasted bread. Wonder bread. Croutons. Stove-top. Raisins. Cranberries. Cheese. The only common denominator---everyone said their stuffing was "the best". Naturally, I didn't have the guts to tell them that NO....they were all wrong...mine is...hands-down...the absolute best. Funny how a bunch of wonderful stuffing cooks all ended up in a class to learn how to make it!

Yes, all stuffings are as different as the people who make them! Mine, like most, has it's origin in a family recipe. My sisters and my aunts and my cousins and my second cousins (and any in-laws who have been beaten into conforming) make their stuffing this way. However, over the years, I've tweaked mine a bit and made it my own. My relatives have done the same. Trust me....I know this for sure. We've had many discussions on it--as only a family of foodies would do. We may change things here or there but we always maintain it's common ingredients--sweet Italian sausage, hot Italian sausage, raisins and Romano cheese. I use a combination of Pepperidge Farms cornbread stuffing mix, Williams Sonoma classic stuffing blend and any left over artisan breads that I've saved in the freezer. I mix it all up with my sausages and raisins and cheese and add Williams Sonoma turkey herbs, sauted celery and onions, parsley and some turkey stock with wine and butter. It is simply the best.....
Now, I just can't wait to make and stuffing!

Next time we talk stuffing....we'll discuss that never-ending debate over stuffing the turkey or not stuffing the turkey. Until then....I'll be thinking STUFFING. How about you?

In honor of this season of sharing and family and all things food....tell me..... what's in your stuffing?


Jody V said...

Judi -

I can't believe you posted this today!! We were having the EXACT conversation last night!! I don't necessarily like my stuffing. i am looking for something different but the family is very hesitant to try new things on Thanksgiving. I hope everyone answers your question!!


Gerry said...

I love your Williams Sonoma! I finally spent my gift certificate there. I would love to taste your stuffing....maybe you can sneak me in a margarine container of it. As far as decorating the ceiling in the office...only if we can start drinking.

Gerry 8)

Kathy said...

Oh boy, I can almost smell the sausage cooking for my stuffing. And all the other yummy scents in the kitchen this time of year. I made some pumpkin zucchini bread yesterday, something I love to do this time of year. I could barely choke down a tiny sliver. Darn it!!

Anonymous said...

I'm just catching up here after some work travel! Wow, you are a fun girl talking about STUFFING! Just in time for me! This year is my first Turkey day at my place. Yes, mom and dad and bros and sis and cousins are coming to this single girl's place!! I was thinking stove top stuffing (don't hate me) or buying the whole dinner from GE. Maybe you need to come on over and teach me the ways of a Thanksgiving queen1
Let's meet for a drinky-poo and discuss STUFFING (and turkey and sides)!!!!!!!!11
you are the best cook I know!

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

It's funny, my stuffing was never as good as my mother's. But after she passed away, I somehow figured it out. It's almost like she guided me.
My mother was Irish, and we all know Irish woman aren't known for their housekeeping skills or cooking. (At least the ones I know)

She made her stuffing with just bread cubes, celery, onion, butter and poultry seasoning. She would wet the bread with the butter and water. But every single year she would tell us before we ate that she makes it like her mother, but her sister doesn't like it as wet and makes hers drier. Then when we went to my Aunts for Christmas dinner, we heard the same thing from my Aunt.My sister, cousin's and I would crack up.
Truth be told, I likes mine like my mother made it--wet.
I especially like it the next day, cold.

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

One more Thanksgiving story--my brother played college basketball. Every year they would play a tournament somewhere around Pittsburgh during Thanksgiving week. For four years, my mother invited the whole team to our house for Thanksgiving Dinner, since most would not make it home.
They always accepted. One problem, this was 1971-74 and my brother happened to be the only white kid on the team. Needless to say, the neighbors weren't thrilled, but my mother happily told them where to go!