By the Light I love this week. I love cooking. I love eating. I love feeding people. And in case you haven’t heard, come to the Golden Keg in the Dwarven District over the next three days to partake in our Pilgrim’s Bounty Feast! No money? No problem! Feeling extra generous? Pay it forward to help out the less fortunate. No one should ever have to go hungry.
And now it’s time for our third feature. While turkey might steal the spotlight, the stuffing is something that can never be ignored. And while I know that Spiced Bread Stuffing is more traditional – hear me out.
Apples. Sausage. Bacon. Herbs.
By their powers combined, you’ll never look at Spiced Bread Stuffing again.
And now for our cast of characters. As always, I’ll be telling you how and when to sub things, but honestly this one is super easy short of the chopping and a little bit of pan frying.
Today we have: 2 large green apples, you want the tart ones that will hold their shape with some cooking. You also need a pound (half kilo) of bacon, since I’m making this stuffing as a rather chunky version, I got the thick-cut stuff. It’s ok if it’s on the fatty side, we’re going to be putting that fat to good use. You also want a large onion, about 12 pre-cooked breakfast sausage links, an entire head of celery (are they called a head?), enough parsley for a healthy handful, 8 oz of mushrooms (leave them out if you want, I’ve been told I like mushrooms way more than most people but when you’re poor and they’re plentiful, you develop an affinity), sage, thyme, about 350ml of broth (chicken, turkey, garlic, whatever) and of course the bread.
Here’s our first chance to make an easy sub. I’ve seen some bakers selling pre-chopped and dried breadcrumbs. If you find that, go for it. I used a loaf of sourdough for this batch, but with batches earlier in the week I used prepared breadcrumbs. It took about a standard 15 oz bag for the same results. Anything to make your life easier.
Speaking of bread —
If you decide to go the loaf route, any bread will work. Sandwich bread, sour dough, probably even an herbed bread. If you’re feeling creative you could probably go with a sweetened bread but don’t come crying to me if it doesn’t taste good. That’s on you.
With your loaf of choice, cut it into cubes. If you have a crusty bread like I did, I found that it was easiest to use a bread knife to get it into slices, then a non-serrated knife to get it into cubes. It’s the Day of Dishes anyhow, might as well make things more difficult.
Once you have your loaf de-loafed, spread the cubes out onto a baking sheet and put them in a very low oven. I’m talking like, 225F/107C to 250F/120C and just let it go for about 20 minutes. You’re looking to dry them out and maybe get a little bit of toasting going on.
Protip: If like me you have a dozen other things going at once, don’t let one of them be gravy. And if it IS gravy, absolutely don’t start dipping the amazingly crispy bread cubes into the gravy. You will not only get completely distracted eating deliciousness, but you’ll also run out of both and have to start over. Maybe have breakfast before cooking…
Now comes the most tedious part – the chopping. I chopped everything coarse for a variety of reasons. I’m making this for a lot of people, and I know that not everyone LIKES celery or sausage or mushrooms, so I wanted them to be able to pick them out if they so desired. Those people are wrong of course, but I try not to judge.
So this is a LOT of chopping but it’s really the hardest part about this whole thing. There’s a technique to cutting onions, and if anyone is interested, I’ve been thinking about making a couple of Things Jax Learned posts where I talk about some of the really neat ease of life tricks I’ve learned since working in the Keg. Chopping onions is one of them.
Anyhow, chop everything as thick as you like, if you make them smaller than I did you’ll have a lower cooking time later. That’s ok though cuz we’re gonna go by color and texture, not time. Also you might want to go ahead and use some smaller bowls to keep these separate, they were a little bit of a pain to get apart to cook but again, it’s not super important. Any shortcut you have to make your life easier, never be afraid to use it.
Now let’s start frying! Start with a handful of the bacon – not all of it. We want to fry it down and get that fat out of it… I don’t remember the word for it. Render? Let’s go with render. Render out some of that fat, get it to just about crispy, then remove to a large bowl where you’ll be putting all the ‘finished’ portions.
Keep that bacon fat nice and hot and toss in the other ingredients. I like to do the mushrooms next, because they’ll absorb that bacon flavor and shrink down nicely.
Cook down the mushrooms until they’ve sweat out most of their juices and get a bit smaller and tender. Move them into the Done Bowl and throw in another bit of the bacon. Render that out, then fry up the next thing. I usually go with onions next.
Again, we’re not looking to cook any of this all the way through, with the exception of the bacon. We’re going to be moving this into an oven later, so it’ll continue to cook. With the onions, you want them to be just turning translucent and a bit soft. If you want some nice browning on the edges like mine had, which adds a bit of flavor – DON’T TOUCH THEM. Let them sit and simmer for a bit, the longer you let them sit, the quicker and more nicely they’ll brown. That being said, go with a lower heat so you don’t burn them while also not touching them.
I guess that’s another Thing Jax Has Learned. I really should make a list… I’m a noob at cooking guys, if I can do this, anyone can.
Keep going with the rest. A bit of bacon, then some apple. Cook them until slightly browned, but don’t overcook them cuz you don’t want them mushy. A bit of bacon, throw in the celery. You want these to just become bright green, then add them to the Done Bowl. Last of the bacon (or butter if you’ve run out at this point) and slightly brown the sausages. Now the hardest part is over.
Almost done, guys! This will be so worth it. Get your oven heating up to about 375F/190C while you finish the last few parts. Chop up your sage into tiny bits (dried is probably fine, we have a druid who supplies us with fresh though). If you have fresh thyme, pull the leaves from the stem. You’ll notice that they all angle upwards. An easy way to do this is to put your fingers on either side and pull the twig opposite of how the leaves are angled. They’ll all come right off.
Also chop up your parsley rather fine – this adds a really nice earthy freshness that really ties the dish together.
Transfer everything into a casserole dish and pour your broth over the top. Mix it very gently, you want the bread cubes to start soaking it all up. Once there’s no more broth sitting on the bottom, we’re good to move it into the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until heated through and the bread has broken down just a little. If you need to add more liquid, may I recommend gravy? It’s a delicious addition, I didn’t do that this time because my ratio turned out pretty good. Like I always say, be creative and be flexible.
Seriously delicious. And way better than Spiced Bread.
- 2 large green apples
- 1 large onion
- 12 pre-cooked breakfast sausage links
- 1 (500g) bacon
- 8oz (250g) mushrooms
- 1 head celery
- 1 large handful fresh parsley
- 1 Tbs fresh sage (about half that dried)
- .5 Tbs fresh thyme (about half that dried)
- 1.5 cups (350ml) broth of your choice, I recommend chicken, turkey or garlic broth)
- 1 loaf bread (or about 15oz or 400g of bread crumbs, cubes, whatever you can find)
- If loafing it (heh) cut your bread into cubes. Or tear them if you’re so inclined. Deloaf the bread
- Spread deloafed bread onto a baking sheet and bake at 225F/107C for about 20 minutes or until lightly toasted and no longer pliable
- Remove from oven, preheat to 375f/190C
- Chop all the things.
- Pan fry about a quarter of the bacon until crispy and render the fat. Remove to a large bowl, retain fat
- In the bacon fat, cook down the chopped mushrooms
- Cook another quarter of the bacon and repeat
- Cook down the onions
- Repeat with all over ingredients (except the herbs and liquid) until done. If you run out of bacon you can sub butter
- Combine cooked ingredients and bread into the bowl
- Add in the parsley, thyme and sage
- Mix everything to incorporate
- Add to casserole dish and gently pour over the broth
- Gently mix until the bread has absorbed
- Bake for about 20 minutes
OH! Important note!! If you end up making too much, move this into a storage container (like a freezer bag) and freeze it in the mage-box for later. Do this BEFORE adding your broth. It freezes really well.