Thanksgiving Stuffing For A Crowd
Tina Verrelli – epicuricloud.com
(Our family favorite from My Mom – Pat Hillen – I’ve made a few tweaks over the years)
Large Crowd Version: (see below for smaller crowd version)
Makes 2 large (approx. 13 x 9) and 2 smaller (2 qt & 1 qt) casseroles.
Enough for 30 People with plenty of leftovers
7 Loaves Pepperidge Farm White Sandwich Bread or similar dense white bread
1 pound pork sausage (comes in the tube shaped package, Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans are examples)
1 pound sage flavored pork sausage
7 cups celery, chopped fine
7 cups sweet onion, chopped fine
3 sticks butter (1 ½ cups), plus additional for buttering dishes
2-4 teaspoons salt (start with 2 and adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup minced fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons dry ground poultry seasoning
79 ounces low-sodium chicken broth (I used a 64 oz. can and a 15 oz. box)
I usually make the stuffing the day before and refrigerate overnight.
I set up a toasting station on the counter by my sink, so I can wipe all the crumbs into the sink. You’ll need a toaster or countertop oven, (or both to save time!) a large cutting board, bread knife and several large mixing bowls. Start by trimming the crust from the bread. Just the very outside bit of it – don’t want to waste too much bread. (Could also freeze the crusts for breadcrumbs.) Toast the bread on medium. You want it golden brown and toasty flavored. Cut the bread into 1” squares and add to mixing bowls. Continue until all toasted. I usually enlist some helpers for this process. Why toast? It’s worth it - the toasting adds flavor and texture.
I use my two largest/deepest skillets for the browning and sautéing. I think any large pots, pans will work. I divide the sausage, half of each flavor and brown that first, breaking it up into small pieces. If very oily, drain off. I remove the sausage to a bowl, but keep the browned bits in the pan to add flavor. Next divide up the celery and onion between the pans and start softening. Divide up and add the butter, pepper and herbs. I start with 1-teaspoon salt in each pan and adjust later. Continue to soften the vegetables for a few minutes, then stir in some broth. I’d say I add 64-ounces to the pans (or as much as will safely fit, remember you’ll need to lift the pan so don’t fill too high.) Save the remaining broth to add as needed. You can warm the remaining in a saucepan. (If I’m making the day before I don’t worry about heating the extra broth – just pour from the can/box.) Give the vegetable/broth mixture a taste and adjust salt. It should be very flavorful because you’ll be mixing it with a lot of plain toasted bread and it’s almost impossible to add salt evenly later. Pour the mixture, trying to divide evenly over the bread in the mixing bowls. Add the cooked sausage back in now, dividing evenly. The toast will condense with the liquid and you can start combining the bowls so the flavors will all be even. Fold gently to mix. Check the texture. It should be moistened all the way through, but not wet. Add the remaining broth as needed. Butter your baking dishes liberally and spoon in your stuffing mixture. Arrange in pan, but don’t press it down. You don’t want to compress it. Cover and refrigerate or pop in the oven to bake.
Bake at 350 degrees (or close to it, if you have to compromise the temperature with other sides in the oven)
The baking time can vary greatly depending on how hot or chilled the mixture is and if you’re heating multiple dishes (as we always are!) I cover for about half the bake time to keep it moist, and then remove the foil so the top gets that more crunchy texture on the edges.
With a big crowd and a buffet, you can stagger the baking: put one of the pans in earlier for the first round, then put one of the pans in later for the second round. We always serve buffet style and use chafing dishes or electric warming trays, so it works well with keeping the first batch warm while pulling together all the other sides.
As a general baking guide, I’d start with:
If baking right after assembling – all will be warm to start:
350 - 20 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered
If baking from refrigerated – all will be cold to start:
350 – 45 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered.
Sometimes I’ll check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer – 155-160 is generally hot enough in my opinion. I think the USDA says casseroles should be 165 degrees.
Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe For a Smaller Crowd:
Makes enough for 2-quart baking dish.
Enough for 6 people (depending upon serving size)
18 slices toasted Pepperidge Farm White Sandwich Bread
½ pound sage sausage (from bulk 1-pound roll)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
4 tablespoons butter
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning or dry rubbed sage
Cut crust from toasted bread and cut into 1”squares - place in large heat-proof bowl.
Brown sausage and break up into small pieces.
Add celery, onion and butter and sauté until softened.
Add broth, salt, pepper, thyme and sage.
Bring to simmer, pour over bread and stir gently to mix.
Adjust seasonings and broth for desired taste and moisture.
Butter a 2 quart baking dish and add stuffing mixture.
If starting hot - Bake covered with foil 350 for 10, uncovered for 10
If assembling ahead and baking from cold will take at least 30 covered, 10 uncovered.