Whether you're a student seeking a culinary certificate online or an experienced professional chef, the holidays are an inspiration for developing new dishes and a great reason to serve a classic favorite. Chefs can also draw on upcoming events to present meals that attract diners and boost business for their restaurants.
There are many foods associated with Thanksgiving, and stuffing has some of the strongest ties to the occasion. This highly variable mixture can be used in a variety of dishes, from the classic application with turkeys to recipes that have little or nothing to do with the traditional holiday meal.
A classic yet versatile stuffing
Certain flavors dominate in classic Thanksgiving stuffing recipes – like summer savory, sage and cranberry – even though individual preparations can vary wildly. For a chef-tested approach that is equally at home eaten as a side dish, drizzled with gravy or eaten in the same mouthful with turkey, mashed potatoes or green beans, consider this offering from Serious Eats. With sage sausage, sandwich bread, broth, celery, garlic and onion leading the charge on the flavor front, it's a rich and satisfying take on the Thanksgiving staple.
The recipe starts with cubing and baking the bread at low heat to achieve a consistency that's crispy but not too crunchy. From there, the sausage is cooked with butter, onion, celery, garlic and sage and left to soak in chicken stock. The next steps include mixing eggs, chicken stock and parsley, combining with the sausage and vegetable mixture and adding the bread cubes.
The final task is either cooking this flavorful mixture until it hits 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer or using it to stuff a turkey and allowing it to finish cooking inside the bird. Either way, you have a delicious side that enhances the rest of the meal.
Stuffing as a meaty main
Beyond the traditional use to stuff another type of food, be it an animal or vegetable, how you make a stuffing is limited by little other than consistency – although this is itself a broad range – and your creativity. A more substantial stuffing shared by the Food Network, featuring finely ground pork, beef and Italian sausage, could easily serve as a main dish or be parceled out as a side. Familiar flavors like onion, celery and scallion are present, but so are steak sauce, cumin, bell pepper and olive.
The recipe is a bit more time intensive, requiring a little more than an hour to bake and about an hour of prep, but it's a unique approach that can appeal to diners who want to taste something a little different. If the heavy dose of meat or specific combination of flavors doesn't appeal to you or your restaurant's clientele, consider how this unique recipe could be a base for your own.
Meatless but hearty dressing from Atlantic Canada
Dressing is an all-year affair in provinces such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where chefs draw on the regional love of the herb savory. It's commonly served with gravy and French fries as a delicious and calorie-heavy side dish and snack. If you're looking to serve a simpler take on stuffing or differ just a bit from the Thanksgiving theme, this dressing is a great choice.
The simple list of ingredients includes only breadcrumbs, savory, onion butter and chicken bouillon or water. Follow this authentic recipe from Newfoundland food blog Stuffed at the Gill's and you can quickly put this tasty concoction together. Serve on fries and top with gravy – don't forget a side of ketchup or malt vinegar – or use in place of stuffing in a variety of other recipes.
Stuffing can take many forms, so chefs should identify a few favorite recipes to deploy when needed.