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In Defense of Stuffing

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

I wrote this several (many) years ago – and since the Season’s upon us, I’m giving it to you again.

The light is changing in the late afternoons. I can smell a coolness on the breeze.

It’s a sure sign my favorite Season is languidly approaching; taking her own sweet time as the last days of Summer linger from violet into gold and umber shades, and the evenings grow more inviting.

It’s time to sit back at day’s end with some cider, and peruse the Holiday cooking shows, nodding and smiling at traditional recipes and soaking in the fun of Holiday preparations.

But this year, something’s different. It’s brought me out of my seat and made me sit up with my mouth agape. (not a pretty image, but there you go)

I’m aghast! I’m shocked. Alton. The Alton… hates a stuffed bird?

::::blinking:::: Blasphemy …and… :::wipes a tear::: he doesn’t baste, or flavor that crunchy sinful skin.

And what’s more crunchy sinful?! None! none more crunchy sinful than the siren call from the oven – the succubus’ beckon of that perfect, caramelized, low and slow roasted, sweet savory, crunchy turkey skin, its perfume luring you to come steal a nibble. 

I’m an omnivore, and this kind of Holiday treat gives me happy dreams.

I’m watching the Food Network T-day show and I’m also flabbergasted that both he and Giada chose russets to mash – not Yukon Golds? Not Butter Creams? More shock and dismay, but that’s another blog.

Now, I have enormous respect for The Alton, and to think he eschews that sublime journey of textures that is… The Stuffing ….makes me feel like the girl at the dance who never gets asked.

I love Thanksgiving meals. Let me rephrase. I LOVE Thanksgiving meals.

All the evenings of prep and discussion, pouring over recipes to see if there’s a technique, a new flavor or trick that I’ve missed, is my favorite Holiday tradition.

The comfort and glee of reading and comparing ingredients, eyes glazing over at the glossy pictures of fantasy Holidays that embody the American Dream, simply sends me, knowing I'll be cooking for folks, sharing great food, and happily shooing out dad or cousins throughout the day. 

Imagining the table laden with future made-by-me deliciousness makes my eyes shine.

The long hours chopping, dicing, mixing, basting and lovingly pouring my heart into those dishes that would feed upwards of 28 each year at my parent’s place….well….. I look back on them with loving pride and nostalgia.

One of my favorite indulgences on that dinner of dinners *is the stuffing.

Why is this night different from any other? Stuffing.

I adore bringing out that golden masterpiece, and swatting at hands that magically appear to eagerly pick and peck, trying to swipe a crunchy bit of the ambrosia that’s spilling out of that beautiful bird.

A few reasons I love The Stuffing:

1. The fantastic gustatory journey of textures as you get farther and deeper into the cavity. Each spoonful has a different density and moisture level as well as an infusion of roast turkey flavor as the juices soak in. I love the crunchy basted top bits. I love the picture perfect middle that has an equal balance of bready-bite-to-moisture ratio.

I love the deepest parts that are pure, rich, goodness that becomes stuffing pudding loaded with juice and turkey flavor, that I reverently dig out of rib cavities with a spoon.

2. The flavor the stuffing itself imparts to the bird, as well as the moisture level. I think it keeps all that succulent dark meat the juiciest it can be. Oh, that gorgeous aroma of the stuffed bird slowly perfuming the house until it reaches that flavor peak, and you know it’s done as those ingredients merge into greatness, together.

Don’t argue, I’ve made up my mind.

3. The simple yet awesome beauty that is…the perfectly roasted stuffed bird.

4. I hate dry stuffing! When I get served that casserole dish of stuffing, it makes my heart sink a little. Gone is that extra flavor of the bird. Gone is the juicy mojo. Gone are those heavenly variations of texture and flavor. Oh, woe to that poor dish of anemic stuffing! What did that stuffing ever do to you! I also find most dish dressing is too salty, as well. That stuffing longs to be reunited with its mother ship.

5. I think an unstuffed bird is a lonely, barren thing. I also think it’s too dry and the dark bits over cook. (As I’ve said previously, and hey, it’s worth sayin’ again.) And I am a lover of the dark bits. The gorgeous legs get dry and tendony without stuffing, and look withered.

I make mine with cornbread and just the right amount of onion, celery and a few other favorite add-ins. (I'll post it on my food blog, Truth Love and Cake Batter)

I’m also a stuffing purist. There can only be so many add ins.

Oysters? Noooo, thank you. Sausage? Why over power the turkey goodness as well as adding un-needed calories to an already calorie laden super-meal? Ham? unneeded. That goes in the beans, the grits or the mash taters. Spinach? Oy. It is not tradition. Kale? (get out)

Also, no fruit for me. Fruit is a food group reserved for salad, dessert, game and cranberry sauces.

But I’m not really sure how I feel. Can you tell?

So Alton, I must gracefully and humbly decline your decree.

I’ll keep my stuffing and you can brine your bird. Bon appetite!

That is my scripture on, The Stuffing.

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