Sausage and Cherry Stuffing
This year forget the turkey. With grand plans for expansive meals at extended tables dashed, it’s just not worth the time and effort for the big bird (though if you absolutely must, spatchcocked – even better, thighs only –, dry-brined, and grilled is the only way). That said, whether you’re cooking for 1 or a socially distanced 6, the one Thanksgiving dish I refuse to give up is stuffing. And in the topsy-turvy-year that has been 2020, nothing feels more necessary than the hug your insides comfort of a crispy-at-the-edges, rich, and herbaceous mound of custardy bread.
I know few dishes are as divisive as stuffing. Or is it dressing? Do you prefer white bread, corn bread, or rice? Tossed with sausage or oysters? Studded with dried fruit? Baked in the bird or on the side*? In an already unusual year, far be it from me to convince you to stray away from your family’s favorite. Cook what makes you happy!
That said, perhaps a year off from hosting is a perfect opportunity to stray from Great Grandma Ethel’s recipe? This is a great riff on a somewhat traditional sausage and cranberry stuffing, with sweet Muscat soaked cherries, the autumnal perfume of rosemary and sage, and of course, Journeyman bread.
*Actually though: always cook your stuffing separate from the bird – it’s just impossible to heat the stuffing through without overcooking the turkey if it’s stuffed inside. If you like the soaked-in-turkey-drippings aspect of a "stuffed" stuffing, roast your bird on a rack, and slip the pan of stuffing underneath.
1 bag Journeyman Bread Cubes for Stuffing or 1 loaf Journeyman Pain au Levain (Sourdough), cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup sweet white wine (such as Muscat or Essensia) (Optional)
1 cup Dried Cherries (or Cranberries)
1 1/2 lb fresh Pork Sausage (such as Breakfast or Sweet Italian, removed from their casings) (Optional)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, cut in a chiffonade
1 cup chicken stock (plus 1/2 cup more if not using wine)
If using wine: Place cherries and wine in a small non-reactive bowl, cover, and let soak overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350º degrees.
If using fresh bread (not prepared bread cubes):Toast bread in a large shallow baking pan in middle of oven until dry and pale golden, about 20 minutes.
Cook sausage in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up large lumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
Add butter to fat remaining in skillet and cook onions, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add celery and garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more. Transfer to bowl with sausage and stir in bread cubes, cherries with wine (if using), rosemary, sage, stock. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3- to 4-quart baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until bread is golden and stuffing is heated through, 20 to 25 minutes more.Stuffing can be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to bake.
Stuffing can be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to bake.