Happy almost-Thanksgiving! Are you starting to fee l the holiday season among us? I am… This weekend I got my first real taste of it when I pulled a little Frank from Old School action. Yeah, that’s right. I had a “pretty nice little Saturday” domestic diva style: Home Depot, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and even some grocery shopping at Shop-Rite. Less than ten minutes into my journey, I realized I was sorely mistaken for making this (mis)adventure out. Who was I kidding trying to run errands on a late November Saturday afternoon? Crowds have amassed at the grocery store in search of yams, cranberries, and Butterballs and the roads are inundated with cars as desperation takes hold of shoppers bouncing from strip mall to strip mall in search of the perfect gift… Ahh, ’tis the season to be merry, right? Personally, it makes me want to hibernate at home, do all of my shopping online, and map out an underground tunnel to get to and from the grocery store unscathed during the pre-dawn hours…
If my bellyaching above made me sound Grinch-like in any way, please forgive me. I love, love, LOVE the holidays! As a matter of fact, I would be happy to have Christmas decorations go up in July if the holiday’s hallmark good will and spirit could last for months at a time. But maybe the fact that this month-long period only occurs once a year is exactly the reason why the holiday season is so special. If it were Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hannukah every day, would the meaning get lost? Probably.
I’d like to kick off this year’s holiday season with a very special family recipe: Grandma Grace’s stuffing. This dish has been served every Thanksgiving as long as I can remember and probably well before then. It was passed down to me in the cookbook my mom made for me when I got married, a compilation of family and long-time favorite recipes. I made it for the first time last year and brought it to Thanksgiving dinner with Joe’s family, but ended up having to call Grandma Grace for some tips along the way. The recipe was lacking measurements entirely and so general that I didn’t know where to begin. I’m really glad I called her because, sadly, she passed this winter and I would have never had the opportunity to learn more about this treasured recipe had I not spoken with her. I would have been misled by my mom’s notes, indicating that you add the chopped salami at the end. When I reviewed this with Grandma Grace, she yelled – the preferred method of communication in my family – as if I committed a mortal sin, “Oh NO!!! You don’t add the salami at the end! You fry it up with the sausage, onions, garlic, and mushrooms! Don’t listen to your mother!” The conversation was priceless and so is this stuffing.
I never did get all of the exact measurements from Grandma, so today’s recipe is filled with approximations that my mother and I figured out; our take on Grandma’s stuffing. If you are blessed enough to have your grandparents around or any elder relatives, I highly recommend you quiz them and learn from them while they are still here. They’ve seen a lot of things in their lifetime and have a wealth of knowledge I’m sure they’d be flattered to pass down to you, whether it be a recipe, some family ancestry, or even a few life lessons.
On that note, enjoy the food, but most importantly, enjoy your family and friends this Thursday and every day. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!
Grandma Grace’s Stuffing
Serves a crowd
1 1-lb loaf of stale crusty Italian bread
3 ounces Genoa salami, sliced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
5 medium eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan* cheese
Soak Italian bread in a large bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. If it doesn’t fit in the bowl whole, break it in half or into quarters. Strain it and squeeze until most of the water is out. Any large chunks of bread that weren’t broken down by the water should be broken up by hand into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
Cut round salami slices into 1/2-inch thick strips. Cut those strips in half into approximately 1″ pieces. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high. Add the sausage, mushrooms, salami, onion, and garlic. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break the sausage down into large crumbs. Cook until sausage is no longer pink and cooked thoroughly. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, add the softened bread, parsley, and eggs and mix well. Add the butter, bread crumbs, and sausage mixture and stir until well combined. Add salt, pepper, and cheese and mix well. Refrigerate overnight in a tightly sealed container.
If baking outside of the turkey, preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Butter a large oven proof baking dish or two medium ones and fill with stuffing. Pat down the top so the surface is smooth. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the stuffing is cooked through.
If baking inside a turkey, butter the neck cavity well and loosely fill with stuffing. Cooking time will vary by the size of your turkey. Stuffing your bird will increase cooking time by 5 to 7 minutes per pound. The center of the stuffing inside the bird must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety.
*I use imported Locatelli Pecorino Romano in place of Parmesan cheese