One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is scanning the day-old baked goods shelf for a variety of breads. Sourdough, french, rye and Italian--they mix together to make a delicious holiday stuffing. A few years ago, Fine Cooking magazine printed a customizable stuffing tutorial right here, and I've been using it each year, changing it up a bit each time depending on mood, ingredient availability, and guest preferences. The online tutorial only allows you to choose one type of bread, but I always use at least two types, usually three. Be sure to prepare this a couple of days before you need it, because the cubed bread should sit out on a rack uncovered for at day or so to dry out. You can use the speed method, but the oven is a usually a precious commodity on Thanksgiving, and I prefer the texture when it's air-dried anyway. If you're preparing this for a vegetarian or vegan, use vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth. The following is the variation I most often make. Visit the site for the interactive tutorial.
8-10 cups bread, torn or cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 Tbs. melted unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 cups chopped carrots
1 cups chopped celery
1 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, or other)
1 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
ground black pepper
2 cups turkey or chicken broth, more as needed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil or cooking spray, for baking dish
Serves eight to ten
Tear or cut the bread into 3/4-inch pieces until you have 8 to 10 cups. If working a day ahead, lay the pieces out on a rack and leave them uncovered on the counter to dry overnight. Otherwise, spread the bread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 275° F oven, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until it is crisp and mostly dry; it will continue to dry a bit as it cools. Depending on how moist the bread is to begin with, oven-drying takes 15 to 45 minutes.
Melt the 2 Tbs. of butter or heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large covered skillet over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly softened but still have some crunch. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in pecans.
Add the bread to the large mixing bowl, along with the rosemary, sage, and thyme, and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour 1-1/2 cups of the broth, plus the wine, over the stuffing. If the liquid isn't immediately absorbed and pools at the bottom of the bowl, you have enough; just toss the mixture occasionally for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed. At first, the bread cubes may feel wet on the outside and still be dry on the inside, but they'll even out as the stuffing cooks.
If the bread immediately sucks up the initial 2 cups of liquid, add another 1/2 cup of broth and taste the mixture. The bread should be moist but not soggy. Add up to another 1/2 cup of broth if necessary.
Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as needed. If the mixture doesn’t taste as rich as you’d like, add enough melted butter or olive oil to suit your taste. Once you’re satisfied with the flavor of the mixture, stir in the beaten eggs.
Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Spread the stuffing in the dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is lightly browned and crisp, another 20 to 30 minutes.