In my quest to avoid ‘the same old’ stuffing, I occasionally go back to this recipe from a chef I’ve held in high esteem from the first time I met him. Bernard Casavant is one of Canada’s most important chefs, a leader in developing a truly Canadian cuisine. His career began as a cook at a hotel when he was 16 years old, and he’s mentored hundreds of young chefs since then. His inspiration and encouragement came from his grandmother, and when I asked him for a turkey stuffing recipe, he eagerly passed on this one, which is based on one of his grandmother’s creations.
It’s a little different, using some dried fruit and Italian sausage (as spicy as you like) to keep the stuffing moist, with the savoury nature of the sausage, rosemary and thyme balanced with the sweet sugars in the dried prunes and apricots. The optional pine nuts and pecans add a crunch to the texture. Years ago, when I first served this to my family, they were resistant. They wanted the same-old, same-old stuffing, but were won over by the results. These days, it’s no longer ‘weird’ to put dried fruit in a stuffing, so I’m confident you can make some new fans with this stuffing as well. Enjoy!
Turkey Stuffing, by Bernard Casavant
14 servings (about 18 cups) preheat oven to 350F
14 ounces Brown Bread, cut into 3/4″ cubes (about 12 cups)
1 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
1/2 pound Bacon, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup Butter
6 cups Leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only), about 3 large Leeks
1 Onion. peeled and diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups Celery, diced into 1/2” pieces, including leaves
2 Carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups Dried Prunes, roughly chopped
1 cup Dried Apricots, roughly chopped
6 tbsp Fresh Thyme (sub 2 tbsp dry)
4 tbsp Fresh Rosemary (sub 1-1/2 tbsp dry)
1- 1/3 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Pecans(optional)
1/2 cup Pine Nuts (optional)
To Taste Salt, Pepper
3 Eggs, beaten, to blend
Place bread cubes on two baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely. In a large frypan, cook the bacon and sausage until slightly golden, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove and keep warm. Drain the remaining fat and in the same pan melt the butter. Add in the onion, leeks, celery, carrots, sauté until the leeks are soft, about 8 minutes. Mix in the fresh herbs, meat, dried fruit and nuts. Add this mixture to the bread, mix thoroughly but carefully. This can be done a day ahead. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate.
To finish, add in eggs, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in chicken stock until moistened to your liking. Loosely stuff turkey cavities and proceed with your roasting. You can also bake the dressing in a foil-covered loaf pan at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, then remove tin foil and brown for a further 15 minutes.