A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH
I’m a big proponent of sweet and savory flavors in the same dish, and this stuffing delivers on that combo in a big way. Thanksgiving for me is all about appreciating the bounty we are blessed with, and I’ve packed both fresh and dried fruit into this stuffing to highlight the flavors of the season. The fruits also add a colorful touch to liven up an otherwise monotone, frankly boring looking dish. Once we pair everything with the magic of fresh herbs we’ll really be cookin’!
TIME TO CRACK THE CASE
I’ve called for sweet Italian sausage as a spicy version would overpower our other flavors. We will remove the casing to ensure we don’t get any chewy bits in our stuffing. Fun fact: all sausage casings are safe to eat, but they come in both natural (made from animal by-product) and synthetic (cellulose) varieties. Removing the sausage from the casing also allows us to crumble it into smaller morsels that will integrate better into the whole dish. Another option is to buy some bulk sausage from the meat department at your local grocery store; it is usually available seasoned or unseasoned.
SOME EXTRA STUFF(ING)
Early birds can actually make their stuffing the night before or up to a week before and refrigerating or freezing it. I like to think this gives the stuffing extra time for the flavors to mingle, a bit like making overnight strata. Since I call for store-bought stuffing, be mindful of the seasoning you end up adding into your mixture. Boxed stuffing typically includes an overly salty seasoning packet, so make sure you’re not doubling up on the sodium. I usually taste my stuffing once it’s cooked and combined, but before I bake it. Depending on how toasted you’d like the top of the stuffing to be, I recommend covering your baking dish with some aluminum foil for the first half of the bake.
Baked Apple Pear Stuffing with Sausage
Yield 8 servings
- 1 ½ pounds sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
- 3 leeks, sliced thin (white & light green parts)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced into ¼-inch cubes
- 1 Bosc pear, cored and diced into ¼–inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 (12 ounce bag) Cubed Country style stuffing
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- ½ cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown add in the leeks, apple and pear, saute until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in sage, thyme, salt and pepper and continue cooking for another minute. Add in the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
Add bread cubes to a large mixing bowl and add the sauteed sausage and vegetable mixture. Toss to combine and then add in the eggs and cranberries. Toss all ingredients together until fully combined.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let cool 5 to 10 minutes.