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DigiBites: “Thanks, Chef! We’re Stuffed!”

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To stuff or not to stuff, is that a serious Foodie’s question?

“Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!”

Yes it is! For more than a decade now, we food professionals have been instructed not to recommend stuffing the holiday turkey with a stuffing, but rather to fill the bird with aromatic vegetables, fruits and herbs, and prepare the stuffing and bake it in the oven. We’ve all heard the arguments – both pro and con – but we will restate them here:

1)  It is tradition – we have done it this way for generations.

CONS:  According to delish.com, here are the 6 reasons why you should never stuff your turkey:
1) It could give you salmonella poisoning. Uncooked turkey juices can be absorbed into the bread and not cooked to the recommended 165˚F, if the stuffing is packed into the cavity.
2) It is the reason your turkey is so dry. In order to cook the INSIDE stuffing to a safe 165˚F, results in the OUTSIDE turkey being way overcooked – and dry.
3) It turns your stuffing “gummy”.  During cooking, the turkey juices saturate the bread turning it mushy.
4) The turkey is usually overstuffed. This also leads to an overcooked bird and pockets of bacteria in the undercooked stuffing.
5) It can be a HUGE time-waster. It takes time to stuff the turkey; the stuffed turkey takes longer to cook, AND, have you ever tried to remove cooked stuffing from the turkey? It’s like trying to clean out a pumpkin – and we know how much fun that is!
6)  Adding aromatics inside the turkey adds welcomed flavor. Suggest adding onion and apple slices, lemon wedges and mixed fresh herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaves.
So…there you go, 6 reasons why not and 1 reason why. I’ll let you decide.
If you like to try a new stuffing for outside the bird, might I suggest this variation I am serving at my Thanksgiving dinner. This year, it will just be my immediate family: my wife, the twins and me!  The ingredients can be adjusted to your liking: replace the turkey sausage with pork; no meat for a vegetarian option, or change out the apples with other winter fruits: Fuyu persimmon, pear, fig, or use a combination. It’s up to you!
Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
– Chef Charlie and the family!

Turkey Sausage, Apple and Dried Cherry Stuffing

1-pound loaf ACME Sweet Batard, torn into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-pound ground turkey sausage (or other soft link sausage that can be crumbled)
1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons rubbed sage
2 tablespoons dried thymeKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup dried sour cherries (or cranberries)
1/2 cup minced, Italian flat-leaf parsley
4 ounces butter, melted

•  Preheat oven to 350º F.  Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until evenly toasted. Transfer bread cubes to a large bowl.  Increase oven temperature to 400˚F.

•  Heat  the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the dice onion, celery, sage and thyme and a big pinch of kosher salt. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Crumble the sausage into the pan with the vegetables, and using a spatula, break the sausage up into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with the vegetables until the sausage is cook-through.
•  Add the chicken stock and apple cider to the pan and ‘deglaze’ by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove the flavorful “brown bits.”

•  Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and toss until coated. Add the diced apples, dried cherries or cranberries and minced parsley, and toss to combine. Drizzle with the melted butter and toss. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

•  Transfer to a baking dish, and place in center of oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown. 

•  Serve warm.

Serves 6 – 8

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  1. Tradition. Plus the fruit the real chef in the family includes in her recipe — which she compared to yours for reference!

  2. Answers: Stuff. Tradition. And it was really good. Did it all over again the next day. Leftovers are almost as good.

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