Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

When I shared a pizza-inspired stuffing recipe last year, some readers were certain about sage-&-onion traditions. 

Commenter: "Is this a joke?" "You'd be laughed at, if not chased out of the South!" wrote another. 

Who knew soggy breadcrumbs were so protected? Stuffing has long been a blank canvas on an otherwise regulated Thanksgiving feast. 

The comments made me wonder: Is stuffing regulated? Platonic ideal? In quest of solutions, I made & tested 20 stuffing recipes — 18 from the New York Times Cooking archives. 

Two popular marketed mixes — to discover which components are most needed for buttery, carb-laden dynamism. 

Modern filling doesn't need to be stuffed, unlike the ancient Roman form. Nowadays, we typically imply stuffing by dressing, which is like savoury bread pudding. 

I travelled across time cooking the 20 meals. After weeks of stuffing myself, I compiled the greatest pieces — crumb size, spices, moisture levels, & textures — into my own fundamental American Thanksgiving stuffing. 

A good base makes good stuffing. New Englanders love cracker crumbs & wild rice stuffing from the Midwest. Many American families eat white sandwich bread, although it might taste bland. 

Southern cornbread filling is excellent, but it loses structure when wet. A crusty sourdough or country loaf mixed with cornbread created a vibrant & familiar blend of flavours & textures. 

Breadcrumb size matters. Ruth M. Siems helped create Stove Top stuffing's perfect crumb size, structure, & texture for hydration. 

What works for packaged stuffing, when water & butter supply the sole moisture, doesn't always work with fresh bread and vegetables. 

Taking a page from Ms. Siems' book, I wanted to find my own perfect crumb size. Half-inch cubes, fully dried in the oven, produced the best texture & flavour. 

These bread crumbs are substantial enough to hold up when hydrated, yet small enough to uniformly distribute moisture. Always use less. 

Marilyn Monroe's 16-ingredient dish from the 1950s lacked cohesion, but the textures & flavours were wonderful. 

Mark Bittman's seven-ingredient bread stuffing, based on a James Beard recipe, was tastier than others with nearly twice as many ingredients. 

Instead of competing, the ingredients harmonised. My recipe calls for two varieties of bread but only has 10 ingredients (not including salt & pepper).

I focused on flavour. Yewande Komolafe's cornbread dressing reminded me how delightful buttery bread crumbs bathed in sausage fat can be. 

I enjoyed the sausage's flavour, which I replicated by blooming sausage-adjacent spices in butter.

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