...all that dead bread can be transformed into something rather edible:
We served this with a piece of lamb leg pan-roasted over carrots and leeks. It was a trial run for turkey day. It hardly matters how dry the bread is. As long as you can still cut it up, it will be fine (we had a piece of French batard that was well beyond saving--absolutely petrified). Use good bread in your stuffing, dressing, whatever you like to call it. It makes all the difference in the world. Only problem is, stuffing this good might upstage the bird.
Simple Bread Stuffing with Bacon and Root Vegetables
serves four to six
12 ounces dry bread, in 3/4-inch cubes, 7 or 8 cups (an assortment adds interest)
3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon--2 or 3 slices--diced
half a small celery root, in 1/4-inch dice (use some of the green stalks, too--mince these--and some chopped leaves if they're not too bitter)
2 small carrots, in 1/4-inch dice
1 small leek, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp each fresh chopped thyme and sage
salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp piment d'espelette or hot paprika, or 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat your oven to 375. In a large skillet slowly cook the bacon over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon is lightly brown. Remove the bacon from the pan. Leave one tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan, and add the one tablespoon of butter. Add the celery root and minced tops, carrots, leek, onion, and sauté until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
In a large mixing bowl combine the bread with the sautéed vegetables, the bacon, the herbs, the piment or paprika, a good dash of salt and several grinds of pepper, and the chicken stock. Mix well, cover with a lid or a plate and let stand for ten minutes. Check to see that the bread is nicely softened. If it seems too dry add another 1/4 cup of stock or water. Mix well once more, and spoon the mixture into a casserole or gratin dish.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is well browned on top and hot throughout. Those Stovetop Stuffing people have one thing right: There's no reason to serve this only once or twice a year. It's a wonderful, simple dish that's great throughout the colder months...in which we are now firmly ensconced.
Text and photos copyright 2008 by Brett Laidlaw