Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thanksgiving Food: Turkey Dressing.

Today we focus on the dressing (or “stuffing”, if you prefer, which I do) of the turkey. Browsing historic recipes gives me the impression that the Big Three turkey dressings are cornbread, oyster, and chestnut. What other alternatives are there?

The Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye (quoting the Detroit Free Press), of November 26 1876 opined that “Roast turkey stuffed with nice rich mashed potatoes is admired by many”, but went on to give some recipes, including this one, for a basic bread dressing.

“Take three pints of bread crumbs for a medium-sized turkey: chop finely, with one-quarter pound of salt pork, a good lump of butter, salt, pepper, sauce and savory, and break in two or three eggs to make it of the right consistency. Fill both the breast and body and sew up.”

From the simple we go to the extravagant with the following idea from The Wellsboro Agitator, of December 24, 1878

“There is one ingredient here I would like to have – but you must leave it out if the object is to be economical. A dozen or so of truffles, finely chopped, half inside the stuffing and half outside in the gravy will add a crowning and superb relish to your roast turkey – but I warn you that the dozen of truffles will cost you an extra five dollars.”

How about one of the “new style stuffings” discussed in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal of January 1938?

Mushroom Stuffing.
8 cups breadcrumbs, 1 egg, beaten, 4 slices bacon, salt and pepper to taste, ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning; milk to moisten, 1 small can mushrooms.
Dice the bacon and pan broil, then brown the mushrooms in the drippings. Mix all together lightly.

As for the Big Three, we have had recipes for all things cornmeal in many previous posts, oysters are now too expensive to stuff inside a roasting bird, but chestnuts still seem like a good idea, if you can get them where you live. Here is a recipe is from the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette of November 24, 1881.

Chestnut Sauce.
One pint of shelled chestnuts, one quart of stock, one teaspoonful of lemon juice, one tablespoonful of flour, two of butter; add salt and pepper. Boil the chestnuts in water for about three minutes, then plunge them in cold water and rub off the dark skins. Put them on to cook with the stock and boil gently until they will mash readily (it will take about an hour) mash as fine as possible. Put the butter and flour in a saucepan and cook until a dark brown. Stir into the sauce, and cook two minutes. Add the seasoning and rub all through a sieve. Use large chestnuts.

Quotation for the Day.

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.
Ted Allen


Karen Bannan said...

My Italian mom always makes my Irish dad's family's recipe. White bread, pork sausage, ketchup, sage, eggs -- there's more, I think. I prefer something without ketchup! LOL.

My MiL's recipe would be good except she bakes them in little tins and they are dry enough to throw at the wall.

Maybe I will try this one out. It will match my $75 organic turkey. (Blogged about it today, actually.)

Twistie said...

I must admit I have difficulty imagining myself admiring turkey stuffed with mashed potatoes...but that could just be me. I think I prefer my taters on the side. And probably in a gratin.

I wish I had my mother's recipe for chestnut stuffing. It was beyond delicious, and had come down in the family through a couple of generations. Alas! My brother made off with Mom's special. private recipe collection and I've never tasted it again. Maybe I'll play with an old chestnut stuffing recipe and see if I can tweak it until it's more or less the flavor I remember.

SometimesKate said...

My mother always made a very basic bread stuffing. The night before, she'd cut white bread into cubes, then let it dry on the counter. Before stuffing the turkey, she'd mix it with celery, a bit of onion, eggs, salt, and sage. Oysters were scalloped and served as a side dish. (blech) I've added a few things to her recipe, but kept it basically the same. I hate to say it, but I really am a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Karen, Twistie, and Kate: isnt it great (even if frustrating!) that in spite of everything, we still enjoy keeping up with family traditions!