Along with fluffy mashed potatoes and rich velvety gravy, nothing pairs better with a roasted turkey than a savoury bread dressing. This could also be referred to as a ‘stuffing’, but, because it will be baked separately, and not ‘stuffed’ inside the poultry cavity, it is technically a ‘dressing’ , or a side-dish. And it is not unusual these days to see many holiday menus featuring an ‘unstuffed turkey’…here are 5 reasons for this trend:
- No one enjoys a dry, tasteless, over-cooked turkey. In order to ensure that the stuffing has reached a safe temperature for consumption, the turkey is at risk for being over-cooked.
- A bread dressing that is baked separately can also be safely served as a leftover the next day; whereas, a stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey cavity is not guaranteed to be safe the day after.
- It’s easy! What’s easier – dumping all the dressing ingredients into a baking dish, or, wrestling with a slippery, uncooperative 15 pound turkey?
- It’s convenient! Dressing can be prepped early in the day, or the day before, and refrigerated until it is time to bake. Or, you can bake the dressing earlier in the day – just before the turkey goes into the oven – and then reheat it and crisp it up at serving time. Or, given that a roasted turkey needs at least 30 minutes rest time before the knife is sharpened, the dressing can actually be baked during the turkey’s ‘rest’ (and carving) period.
- There’s more dressing to enjoy! A turkey’s cavity is really not that large. Consequently, you may not have enough stuffing to go around … Baking the dressing separately allows for ample servings for everyone (plus seconds, and leftovers).
This dressing recipe can also be used as a ‘stuffing’; however the amount of butter and broth would need to be reduced slightly in order to account for the extra turkey juices that the stuffing absorbs.
This recipe, which makes 8-10 cups of dressing, can easily be halved for a smaller portion. But ….even if you only need a smaller portion, you may want to make the whole recipe, and then bake it in two smaller baking dishes (8 x 8) so that you can tuck away the extra one for another day. I have even frozen the extra portion so that we can look forward to a savoury side dish to serve with a roasted chicken on another day.
Savoury Sage and Sourdough Dressing
Prep Time: 25 minutes Baking Time: 45 minutes
Number of Servings: 8 – 10 servings
8-10 cups of sourdough bread cubes (1 large loaf)
200 g (8 ounces) pancetta, or bacon, cut into small cubes or pieces
115 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups (500 mL) chopped onion (about 2 large onions)
1 cup (250 mL) chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Kosher salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup (185 mL) dried cranberries
½ cup (125 mL) chopped pecans
3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) chopped fresh sage
½ cup (125 mL) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup (125 mL) chopped green onions
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried savoury
1 ½ cups (375 mL) chicken or turkey broth
½ cup (125 mL) dry white wine (or use extra broth)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons (30 mL) unsalted butter, melted
- Prepare the bread by slicing the loaf into ¾ inch slices; remove crusts, and then cut each slice into ¾ inch cubes. Allow the bread cubes to dry out. Either lay pieces on a rack and leave them uncovered on the counter for several hours/overnight, or put on a baking sheet and bake in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Place dried bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
- In a large saucepan, cook the pancetta or bacon over low-medium heat until brown and crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove meat from pan and set aside. Drain pan of all but 3 tablespoons of drippings.
- To the pancetta/bacon drippings, add the butter. Add chopped onions and celery and sauté (low-medium heat) for 5-10 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Add the salt and pepper to the cooked vegetables.
- Return the cooked pancetta/bacon to the cooked vegetables. Stir to combine.
- Add the cooked vegetables and pancetta/bacon to the bread cubes and stir well to combine.
- Add the cranberries and pecans to the bread mixture in the mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
- Prepare all of the herbs and add to the bread mixture. Mix well.
- Pour in the broth and wine. Mix to combine well. Add a little more broth if it appears to be too dry.
- In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the melted butter. Taste the bread mixture at this point to decide on how much extra salt and pepper to add. Add the extra seasonings, if necessary, to the egg-butter mixture and combine well. Add the eggs and melted butter to the bread mixture and combine well.
- Preheat the oven to 375 0F (190 0C). Prepare a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish, or two smaller dishes (8 x 8). Spread the dressing in the dish(es) and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through. Remove foil and crisp up the dressing for an additional 15 minutes.