How To Make Stuffing — The Essential Side Dish
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Thanksgiving table is full of foods that only make an appearance once a year. Is there any other day you eat cranberry sauce? For some of us, stuffing fits into that category - not Deb Perelman. She is the food blogger behind the new cookbook "Smitten Kitchen Every Day." And Deb, why are you such a stuffing fan?
DEB PERELMAN: I think it deserves a place in the table all year. I don't know why we limit it to Thanksgiving. It's so good.
SHAPIRO: Are you an in or outside-the-bird person?
PERELMAN: I'm an outside-the-bird person. So it's actually called dressing, but I call it stuffing just to - I don't know - make people's heads explode, I guess (laughter).
SHAPIRO: And do you use a strict recipe, or do you just sort of throw whatever inspires you into the pan and mix it up?
PERELMAN: I have a couple recipes I love. But I feel like for the classic you really can't go wrong with just sauteing up, you know, onions and celery with a good amount of herbs, an unholy amount of butter and then soaking up your bread with extra broth.
SHAPIRO: And if you did want to mix it up, what would those variations be?
PERELMAN: I really like to use two different kinds of breads. I like the flavor contrast you get. But I think - I love hearing what other people use because it's very regional. But for me, I find a mix of good sourdough and a challah is really fun. But, of course...
SHAPIRO: Challah, really?
PERELMAN: Yes, it's so good. They're like a little bit of a sweet richness. But also then you've got this salty sourdough to kind of give it some good contrast.
SHAPIRO: A couple of years ago, you published on your blog, Smitten Kitchen, a recipe for kale stuffing with caramelized onion. I feel like we've hit peak kale.
SHAPIRO: Would you still recommend this?
PERELMAN: I love it. It's definitely a more modern take. But that's exactly one of the stuffings that I feel like it would work as - like, with an egg on top for a brunch or really any time year. But it's really lovely. And so if you're looking for something slightly nontraditional that won't taste as nontraditional as it sounds, I think it's wonderful.
SHAPIRO: If I wanted to make this kale stuffing at home, what would I do?
PERELMAN: You want to cook up some kale. And it, you know, wilts down really, really small. It's not as substantial at it seems. I like to use torn chunks of sourdough in this. And the main thing is to not skimp on the caramelized onions. They really wind the whole thing together.
SHAPIRO: Cook the onions a lot longer than you think you need to so they get, like, dark brown, that sort of thing?
PERELMAN: I think it - yeah - to get a real jammy flavor to them.
SHAPIRO: Yeah - almost sweet.
PERELMAN: Exactly. It adds the sweetness without adding the fruit or the sugar.
SHAPIRO: I know there are a lot of regional American variations. There's sausage stuffing. There's oyster stuffing. Is there something that reminds you of your roots or your childhood?
PERELMAN: I really like it rather simple. But I do remember always begging my mom growing up to make this one with apple and herbs. It must have been from some package. She never wanted to do it. Now I'm a grown up, and I never want to make it from a package. So I guess the cycle continues.
SHAPIRO: I think from my childhood the reference would be mushrooms because I'm from Oregon. And my dad would always hunt wild mushrooms. And he would bring back bags and bags of chanterelles, which are now way too expensive at the supermarket.
PERELMAN: I know they're crazy. But they were beautiful...
SHAPIRO: But, like, portobellos and shiitakes and creminis and regular white mushrooms can sort of make up for the missing chanterelles, so - and also. I often have vegetarians at my Thanksgiving dinner. So a very mushroom-y stuffing I feel like is something to bolster the vegetarian side of the table.
PERELMAN: There are a lot of people who feel like without sausage, it's not stuffing. I'm not one of those. I like it. But I feel like if, you know, more people can eat it, that works, too. I really - for me, it's really about not skimping on the butter and, of course, making sure you get some well-cooked onions and herbs. And I heard from a lot of people who said don't - please, go easy on the sage. They have bad memories...
PERELMAN: ...of being, like, assaulted.
SHAPIRO: ...Way too much sage.
PERELMAN: Yeah, I mean, it's quite a strong herb. I mean, you can go - I would say, just a little bit goes a long way. But that's just - hey, that's just my way.
SHAPIRO: Just to end on a total wild card - you once suggested making stuffing in a loaf pan. What's up with that?
PERELMAN: I love the idea of slicing it up, the leftovers. Also, my other nontraditional suggestions - I love putting leftover stuffing in a waffle iron.
SHAPIRO: A waffle iron.
PERELMAN: It is so - it's so good. It's so good. You get those nice deep crags, and you can put an egg on it, it's so fun for the day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.
SHAPIRO: Deb Perelman - she is a food blogger behind Smitten Kitchen. And her new cookbook is called "Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant And Unfussy New Favorites." Happy Thanksgiving.
PERELMAN: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI TRIO'S "THANKSGIVING THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.