Feast: Sausage Pecan Stuffing (10 huge servings)
This is The Old Gaffer’s recipe (aka, my dad). I have not translated his measurements from volume to weight because this is how he rolls, and thus this is how it must be done. This recipe alone embodies Thanksgiving to me. The Turkey, I can take or leave. Cranberry Sauce, who cares. If this stuffing (which we don’t stuff in the turkey, but have never called it “dressing”) doesn’t make it to the table, neither do I. But, fortunately, The Gaffer has never let me down.
(Even though I’m terribly allergic to pork, I eat this every year. I don’t care. I’ll take the hives, I’ll take the pain, it’s worth any amount of suffering.)
Sausage Sage and Pecan Stuffing
20 slices of stale white bread torn or cubed (Gluten Free works great!)
1 batch sage cornbread, staled overnight and crumbled
3 cups (a 12 ounce bag) pecans, lightly toasted
1 pound of ground sausage
4 small onions, diced roughly
6 stalks of celery, sliced into bite-sized chunks
3 sticks of unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped sage (about two large handfuls)
12 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
6 eggs, whisked
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp salt, or more to taste
This makes a ton of stuffing, so have a super huge bowl on hand to mix everything. Whatever bowl you just picked? Not big enough. Go another size up. Now, place the bread, cornbread pieces and pecans into the bowl and set aside.
Break up the sausage into a skillet and cook until it’s browned and cooked through. Use a wooden spoon along the way to break up the sausage into whatever sized pieces you like. Transfer the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon to the bowl of bread, leaving the drippings in the skillet.
Saute the onions and celery in the sausage drippings (yeah, I know. Look, it’s Thanksgiving, okay?) on medium-low heat until translucent, but not browned. About 8-10 minutes. Add the mixture, drippings and all, into the bread bowl.
Put the butter into your hot skillet, and melt on low heat. Add in the chopped sage and cook until the butter melts and just starts to bubble and foam. Pour it all over the bread, and don’t think about your arteries absorbing the fat like the bread does. Shhh…It’s so good.
Now add in the evaporated milk, stock, and whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper. You may think the mixture too wet, but you’re wrong. Just wait and see.
You can freeze or refrigerate this wet mixture ahead of time!!! Really! We discovered this trick only this year, when my dad and I made the stuffing a week ahead of time so I could leisurely take notes on his method. We thought, “what the heck” and froze half of it, which we then thawed back out on Thanksgiving. It baked up perfectly, indistinguishable from a fresh batch. The Gaffer wept, knowing the kind of prep and hassle he might have averted over the years if he’d only attempted The Freeze sooner.
So either right away, or after you’ve thawed the frozen stuffing, fill up a cast iron skillet or skillets with the stuffing. I like a good ratio of crusty to moist, so I pile the stuffing in a mound so I have lots of surface area to brown up, yet lots of covered stuffing safe below.
However you do it, bake 30 minutes in a 375° oven. Enjoy. The Gaffer loves you.
To see the rest of our meal, read Thanksgiving Heritage, which we’ve loaded with pictures, links and recipes.
Nov 30, 2010 · 11:44 AM
We do turkey sausage the rest of the year, and I think it’s really good, until I eat my once-a-year pork sausage stuffing, and then it dawns on me what I’ve been missing. I’m crabby about it all through the new year, but by then, my flavor memory begins to fade, and I’m happy with the turkey or chicken sausage again.
Nov 21, 2015 · 11:55 AM
Hi Stella! Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe! We are going to begin prepping this today, and plan to freeze until Wednesday. Just curious about the freezing; did you freeze in the skillets? Or freeze in the bowl or containers and then thaw out before putting in the skillets? Looking forward to your reply!
Dec 03, 2015 · 9:56 PM
Hi, Frankie, so sorry I didn’t get to you before Thanksgiving! The stuffing’s pretty friendly about how it’s frozen (which I hope you discovered). I usually freeze it in a pyrex dish of some sort, because I can’t bear to tie up my cast iron for so long, but I’m not aware of any risks involved with freezing cast iron….
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