I know I will kick myself next year if I don't write this recipe down and post it here. I use my own blog as a cookbook so if I don't put it here, I will never find my scribbles; usually on the backs of envelopes.
Anyway, I love sausage stuffing but it never tastes like I want it to. Sausage stuffings often use cornbread which I prefer not to use. I know lots of people couldn't have stuffing any other way, but for me it just doesn't float my boat.
I had no plan before making this stuffing, just a bunch of ingredients I thought might taste good. Another issue I have with sausage stuffing is the seasoning...it's never right. I've used all the best quality sausage and a range of flavors from mild to spicy....but it has always fallen short. This year I used Jimmy Dean Regular Sausage and the seasoning was perfect, just perfect. Who knew.
I also wanted a hint of sweetness with the savory taste so I threw in dried cranberries and it was the perfect finishing touch. Everyone loved it, end of story.
Bread and Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries
8 cups crusty, artisan type bread, I baked my own but store-bought is fine, torn into 1-1/2" pieces
8 cups store-bought bakery made stuffing cubes
2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1-1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
6 Tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing
1 lb Jimmy Dean Regular Sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (if your mixture seems dry you can always add more)
1-1/4 cups dried cranberries
11 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Before making stuffing, you have to stale the bread at least a day ahead. You want to dry up the starch cells so they refill with flavorful liquids. Tear or cube bread into smaller pieces before staling. You can also do this in the oven to speed up the process (350 degrees for 15 minutes). You only have to do this with the artisan bread. The stuffing cubes from the bakery will already be dried out enough. I use both kinds of bread because it's nice to have the different textures of the real crunchy stuffing cubes and the torn pieces of artisan bread.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, sage, rosemary and thyme and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into another bowl and let cool.
To the same skillet add sausage and cook until no longer pink. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Once the vegetables and sausage have cooled place them into the same bowl with the bread and stir in stock or broth until fully incorporated. This is where I taste the mixture (before I add the eggs) and season it to my liking with salt and pepper (sometimes it takes quite a bit). Once I'm happy with the flavor I add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
Place the mixture into two generously buttered 9 x 13 baking dishes and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, the top should be lightly browned. Serve hot.
You can bake this the day before and place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before reheating in the oven for 30 minutes.
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