Throughout history the golden-brown, roasted turkey was carried proudly to the dinner table stuffed to the drumsticks with a flavorful, bread dressing. After carving the turkey, dad would plunge the serving spoon into the bird's hollow cavity and bring out a stuffing that was rich with flavor from the turkey juices.
Now we are told by "Chow Line" that this is potentially more risky than cooking one without the stuffing and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service doesn't recommend it.
Joseph Maiorano sent a food safety release from the Ohio State University food, agricultural and environmental sciences, telling that making your own or one from the box that stuffing the stuffing into the bird can be risky. It should be fine, however, if a few precautions are taken.
A TRADITION WITH RULES — Turkey with stuffing has been a tradition down through the ages, but some rules need to be followed if it is done now. To be sure there is a safe dressing, as it was called in my youth, it can be baked in a separate dish. It comes out brown and crisp on the top and is just as enjoyable. -- Esther McCoy
Here are Maiorano's recommendations:
If you prepare the stuffing ahead of time, store wet and dry ingredients separately and be sure to refrigerate the wet ingredients, including any portion containing ingredients such as butter or margarine, cooked celery and onions and broth. Combine wet and dry ingredients just before spooning the stuffing to the turkey cavity.
Stuff the turkey cavity loosely - don't "stuff" it. If you have extra stuffing, cook it in a separate casserole dish. The stuffing should be moist, not dry. Heat kills bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.
Once it is stuffed, place the turkey in an oven set to at least 325 degrees. Do not stuff turkeys that will be grilled, smoked, fried or microwaved.
When checking the turkey for doneness, also check the stuffing. Both must reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. If the turkey is done but the stuffing isn't, keep cooking the whole thing. The turkey meat might dry out a bit, but it is worth being safe.
Also, the Cooking Basics for Dummies Cookbook notes that if the stuffing does not register 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, when the turkey is done, spoon the stuffing into a buttered casserole dish and continue to bake it as the bird rests away from the heat.
When it is done, let everything rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the bird.
Be sure to refrigerate leftovers promptly. Perishable food should be kept at room temperature no longer than two hours. If you are having a large family gathering, it is easy to lose track of time so be sure to keep an eye on the clock as dinner winds down, according to Maiorano.
The Cooking Basics for Dummies tells that the bread needs to be very dry for a good stuffing. Two-day-old bread left uncovered in the oven a day or two, turning the slices now and then, yields the best result. Or dry out bread on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.
Fresh moist bread can create a gummy stuffing. Just be sure to slice the bread before drying it or it can be too hard to work with.
Here is a recipe for a stuffing with chestnuts and sausage added, along with using rich egg bread.
12 ounces rich egg bread, such as challah, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red pepper, finely chopped
Large stalk celery, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
4 ounces fully cooked chorizo sausage, cut lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 cup peeled roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large jelly-roll pan, spread bread cubes in single layer. Toast in oven 10 to 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool then transfer to a large bowl. Reset oven to 350 degrees. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium high. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, celery, 1/8 teaspoon salt and pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Cook 4 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are golden and tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley and thyme and remove from heat. Transfer to bowl with bread. Wipe out skillet. In same skillet, cook chorizo on medium for 5 to 10 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; discard fat in pan. Transfer chorizo to bowl with bread, along with chestnuts. Stir until well mixed. In large bowl, whisk broth and egg until well blended. Pour over bread mixture. Stir gently until mixed. Spread in shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes longer or until golden brown on top and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Makes six servings.
This stuffing uses no bread but wild rice for the filler. It has hulled pumpkin seeds as one of the ingredients and is an excellent gluten-free recipe.
Wild Rice Stuffing
2 cups wild rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Large jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons coriander
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Cook rice according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add vegetables and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl. Add rice, pumpkin seeds, raisins, broth and coriander. Stir to combine and transfer to a 9-inch square baking dish. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Drizzle with vinegar and serve to eight people. This is 226 calories with 8 grams fat and 4 grams fiber.
This recipe is from the Cooking Basics for Dummies Cookbook. It is a combination of cornbread and French bread, along with apples and sausage.
Cornbread, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pound bulk pork sausage, mild or hot to taste
Large yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
Large red bell pepper, diced
2 hot chile peppers or jalapeno peppers, diced, optional
8 cups cornbread cubes
4 cups stale French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 golden delicious apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
14 1/2-ounce can chicken stock or 2 cups homemade stock
2 eggs lightly beaten
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to break it up. Remove to a mixing bowl with slotted spoon. Add to the skillet 4 more tablespoons butter with the onion, celery, red pepper and if desired, the hot peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are cooked but still a little firm. Stir the veggies into the sausage. Add cornbread and French bread cubes, apples, parsley, poultry seasoning, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken stock and eggs; add this to the stuffing, about 1 cup at a time, stirring well. Add enough egg-broth mixture to moisten the stuffing so that it holds together when lightly pressed between the palms of your hands. Transfer to a well-buttered baking dish with a lid. Dot with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons butter. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until heated through. Makes 12 servings.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com)