Homemade Stuffing to Please Everyone: Goat Cheese and Fruit Infused Stuffing
As fancy as this recipe sounds, it is in fact beautifully mild while holding its own on a Thanksgiving Table filled with family favorites. When my friend first told me about a recipe for homemade stuffing that won first place for Thanksgiving dishes in the Better Homes and Gardens’ Magazine I was intrigued. Mostly because, while it is one of my husbands’ favorites, I have never been able to enjoy it. I have never understood the allure of stuffing and, paired against dishes containing pumpkin or sweet potatoes, I was interested in how it could have won. Now I understand.
It is so beautiful. So tasty. So different, and yet, familiar enough to satisfy a stuffing traditionalist. I had to do a blind test and not tell my husband, John, that there was goat cheese in the stuffing — it would have defiantly prejudiced him against it. I simply said that we were having stuffing with dinner and he enjoyed it! I did too! Stuffing magic.
Notes on Making Homemade Stuffing
First: You need some nice thick bread. It doesn’t have to be stale, in fact, old bread that is about to go bad is not ideal. Fine. Not ideal. I made my own bread but you don’t have to do this. (I will say though, that if you have wanted to give bread making a try, this would be the perfect recipe to practice with. Stuffing is very forgiving of imperfect bread) Here is my Whole Wheat Bread Recipe and tutorial.
If you are not making your own loaves, either get some thick and sturdy whole wheat sandwich bread or get a whole artisan loaf. You don’t want thin sandwich bread that is full of air because it won’t hold up to the weight of the other ingredients.
Second: Fresh herbs are key here. They add that extra pizzazz I always find missing from stuffing.
Four Simple Steps to the best stuffing you have ever had.
1) Cut your bread into one inch cubes and place on cookie sheets to dry in the oven at 350, stirring occasionally. This takes 10-20 minutes. Make sure they get a little toasty. This is going to bring out the nutty flavor in whole wheat and assist in retaining its structure in the chicken broth. The recipe calls for a pound, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, know that I used one and a half of the loaves you see here. It doesn’t have to be exact. You can add more broth if it looks too dry before you pop it in the oven.
2) While your bread is drying out, dice an onion, dried dates (they can be sweetened or not), and dried cherries. Sauté all of these along with two tablespoons butter, the sage, rosemary, and thyme in a large skillet (you don’t want everything piled on top of each other too much). Sauté this savory mixture until the onion is soft, translucent, and fragrant.
3) Combine your dried out and toasty bread pieces, salt and pepper, your sautéed goodness, one cup of goat cheese, and about 3 cups of chicken (or veggie) broth. If there had been homemade stock in the freezer I would have used that, but two cans of chicken broth worked just fine. Toss gently to combine. You want to be gentle so that you don’t squash the bread.
4) Place in a greased 9 x 13 cake pan or casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
Tips for serving
This is a dish you want to hot and fresh out of the oven, not warmed up later. To accomplish this on a day like Thanksgiving, when there are many moving parts, you can prepare everything the day before. Cut up and dry out the bread. Make sure it is 110% cool before storing the cubes in Ziploc baggies. You can also satué all the diced components, let it cool, and store separately from the bread. About 30-40 minutes before dinner time, quickly combine the bread, spices, cheese, and broth right before baking. Stuffing Magic.
Leftover Homemade Stuffing
We decided to test out how this stuffing fares the next day. We smashed a serving of stuffing into a sizzling hot pan with a bit of butter and warmed through, flipping half way to get a little buttery crust on each side. Then we put some bacon and eggs on top with a bit of cranberry sauce. Once again, Stuffing Magic.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American Readers!
Lots of love,
PS Many thanks to Jennifer Coduto from Kent, Ohio for the original recipe which we have adapted here. I think she must be a genius.