Thanksgiving Recipes: Dressing and stuffing done right, and foolproof, no-lump gravy, too

Thanksgiving dressing for every taste

CLEVELAND - Stuffing or dressing can be found on nearly every Thanksgiving table, but it's one of the toughest holiday menu items to pull off well.

It's too dry. It's too wet. It's under seasoned. It's over seasoned. You get the idea: there's always something just a little off.

Not to worry, we have you covered with four fantastic stuffing and dressing recipes. And we're not stopping there - we're going to give you a never-fail recipe for turkey gravy!


Basic Bread Stuffing

We need to differentiate. If it's cooked inside the bird, it's stuffing. If it's cooked outside the turkey, it's dressing. Either way, this basic recipe is easy to execute and delicious.

4 cups quality white bread, cubed

½ cup onion, minced

½ cup celery, chopped

¾ cup butter

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried sage

1 egg, beaten

½ cup cream

Chicken or turkey broth

Saute onion and celery in the butter until soft. Combine the onion and celery with the all of the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add broth until moist. Stuff turkey, or place dressing mixture in an oiled baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.


Cornbread Stuffing

Cornbread stuffing is a southern staple, but because so many families moved here from the south to take advantage of the industrial boom of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, you'll find it on many holiday tables here, too. And we are so lucky for that.

6 cups cornbread, crumbled

½ pound bulk sage or breakfast sausage

½ cup butter

2 tablespoons cooking oil

½ cup celery, chopped

1 tablespoon red bell pepper, minced

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cup chicken or turkey broth

1 teaspoon dried parsley

Brown the sausage in a skillet. Add the celery and pepper and cook for two minutes. Add ½ cup of broth and cook until vegetables are soft. Place the crumbled corn bread in a large mixing bowl . Add the sausage/vegetable mixture, the rest of the broth, and the parsley. Mix well, then allow to cool for five minutes. Add the beaten eggs. Stuff into the turkey, or place mixture in an oiled baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until top is browned.


Oyster and Crawfish Dressing

It's time to get a little decadent, but it's the holidays, so a little excess is in order. This recipe features not one, but two seafood favorites. It's rich, loaded with calories, but oh, so worth it.

2 ounces of slab bacon, cut into dice

1 cup butter, unsalted

1 rib celery, chopped

¼ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 dozen shucked oysters, plus 1 cup oyster liquor from container

½ pound crawfish tails, removed from shells

6 cups crusty French or Italian bread, cubed

4 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the green pepper, celery, garlic, and onion. Stir frequently and cook until soft. Add the paprika and cayenne and cook for two minutes more. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the bacon/vegetable mixture. Add the oysters, oyster liquor, and the crawfish. Add the eggs, hot sauce, and salt. Mix everything together.  Place the mixture in an oiled baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, or until crispy and brown on top.


Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing

Here's a stuffing that doesn't depend on bread. It features the flavors of fall. Best of all, it's easy to make.

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups vegetable, chicken, or turkey broth

2 cups wild rice

2 cups white rice

2 cups dried cranberries

½ cup golden raisins

¾ cup pistachios, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

¼ cup onion, chopped

salt & pepper

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil in a high sided skillet. Cook until just soft. Add wild rice and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring constantly. Add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add all other ingredients and allow to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. You can then stuff your turkey with the mixture, or serve.


Never-Fail, Can't-Miss Holiday Gravy

Gravy should be easy, right? Instead it can cause a lot of holiday headaches. Who needs that? Here's the cure to bad gravy!

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 cups pan drippings or drippings combined with turkey or chicken broth

Strain the drippings through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the strained liquid. If you don't have four cups of drippings, add turkey or chicken broth to make up the difference. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour, stirring until it forms a thick roux. Whisk in the drippings/broth and the pepper. Continue to whisk until thickened to desired consistency. If too thick, thin with broth. Serve.

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