Extended families... broken families... married adult children... step families... long distances... sometimes we can't just recreate the Thanksgiving of our childhood.
When my parents got divorced, one of the things I hated was the pressure to show up everywhere on holidays. Suddenly we were all put in a situation that would automatically hurt one of our parents. It stunk. When we all got married, that added additional families to make happy. Not fun.
One family I know moves the big meal to Saturday. Their adult children can visit the in-laws on Thursday (bonus points toward the Christmas tug-of-war) and they get plenty of extra time to prepare a fabulous feast. I like that idea!
Sometimes you might find yourself cooking dinner for two, three, or four on Thanksgiving, and baking a giant bird might be overkill.
This dish gives you an opportunity to serve an easy Thanksgiving meal. The key component to evoke the feeling of the Thanksgiving of your childhood, at least for me, is the stuffing.
Our palates get more sophisticated, we appreciate new flavors, but there is something about the holidays that make us want to go back to what we know.
My mom's stuffing consisted of dried hamburger buns, celery, onions, butter, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. No fruit. No corn bread. No sausage. No mushrooms. Uncomplicated. I loved it. (by the way, I'm seeing stuffing recipes these days with egg in them. I've never tried them. Anyone made them? What are they like? I can't imagine.)
But here's the deal. My mom's recipe was all butter. Probably a pound of butter. No broth at all. I needed to find a recipe that recreated the flavors of my favorite stuffing without all of the fat.
I present to you a full recipe of my favorite stuffing ever as well as Thanksgiving dinner for two (or three, or four) using my favorite stuffing ever. If you find yourself with just one person or a small group on Thanksgiving, make this meal and send everyone home with a generous helping of leftover stuffing.
Adapted and revised from Fine Cooking, December 1, 1997, by Molly Stevens
1/2 C unsalted butter
3 C chopped onions
2 1/2 C diced celery stalks, including leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh thyme
1/3 C finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 t. dried marjoram
2 t. celery seeds
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 t. kosher salt
One pound loaf of crusty homemade (just kidding on the homemade part) Italian or French bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and set out to dry a day ahead of time.
1/2 t. ground pepper
2 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
In a large skillet, melt 1/4 C of the butter. Add the onion, celery, garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, celery seeds, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 7 minutes. Take the pan off of the heat and let cool.
In a very large bowl, toss the bread and the contents of the skillet. Add the pepper.
Melt the rest of the butter and pour it over the stuffing. Pour the broth over the mixture and toss just enough until the stuffing holds together. Place into a baking dish.
Make ahead tip: You can refrigerate until the big day at this point and bake later. Remove from the refrigerator about an hour before baking.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.
Stuffed Turkey Breast
Adapted from Simply Recipes
1 2 pound boneless turkey breast
12 oz package of salt pork
Olive oil, butter, or bacon fat
Unbaked stuffing of your choice
Gently pound the turkey breast to 1/4 inch thick. If the breast is thick, try butterflying it first. Spread unbaked stuffing (not the entire recipe, just a 1/2 inch coating) on the breast and tightly roll it up lengthwise, so it looks like a tenderloin. Tie the rolled breast with kitchen string, place it in a roasting pan, brush it with olive oil, and season with pepper to taste. Wrap the roll with salt pork.
Roast at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast for 10-15 minutes more. The internal temperature should be 155 degrees F.
Remove it from the oven, tent with foil, and let it rest for 10 to 25 minutes.
While waiting, make some gravy from the drippings with your favorite gravy recipe.
Remove the salt pork from the turkey, slice, and serve with your favorite Thanksgiving sides.
Happy intimate Thanksgiving!