Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving already? Less than two weeks! Then it’s practically Christmas! I feel so cliche saying that, but it’s true! Where does the time go? My family doesn’t typically celebrate Thanksgiving (it feels weird to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving here in the US, and it feels weird to celebrate American Thanksgiving when our Canadian family is already done with the holiday). In any case, I’m always looking for an excuse to eat Stuffing. In particular, my very favorite Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans.
I don’t love this stuffing because I grew up eating it at every holiday. In fact, I grew up eating a version with no sausage, but mushrooms (and of course, Stovetop). Don’t get me wrong, the mushroom version was good to, but I’ve been making this one since I started cooking my own holiday dinners. I love the meaty sausage, and the pops of sweet tartness from the cranberries. Plus the fact that it’s cooked with chicken wings on top to give it a little extra poultry flavor without the food safety issues that come with actually cooking the stuffing inside your turkey.
Now of course, like many things that come out of the kitchen, your result depends largely on the ingredients that you put into a dish. In this case, the bread that you choose to use. Please don’t use the dried out bread crumbs that you can buy in your grocery store’s bakery. You’re just paying for bread that was too stale to sell as bread. Use bread that you’d actually eat otherwise – I like to use my homemade sourdough. I keep a dedicated zipper bag in my freezer at all times where I store cubes of leftover bread. When I need to make croutons or stuffing, I’m always ready.
And here’s a little pro tip for you: always transfer a baking sheet with a heavy baking dish filled with food on it to the oven with two hands. This is what happened to me: I was holding the baking sheet with my Pyrex dish full of stuffing on it in one hand, and opening the oven with the other. The baking dish started to slide, and of course toppled right onto the floor. Luckily, the aluminum foil contained most of the stuffing, and I was able to salvage it (but you’d better believe I’d still have chosen to eat this stuff off the floor). Anyway, use two hands and don’t follow in my footsteps.
- 1 pound bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I like to use my homemade sourdough, but choose your favorite high quality bread - don't use the dried bread cubes you can buy at the grocery store)
- 1 pound chicken wings
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage casing removed
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- 2 medium celery ribs chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage or 1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup pecan halves toasted and coarsely chopped
Place oven rack in the middle position. Heat oven to 250°F. Spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the edges of the cubes are dry, but the insides are still soft, 45-60 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Transfer bread to a large bowl and increase oven temperature to 375°F.
While the bread is drying, prepare the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
Poke 5-10 holes in each chicken wing with a paring knife. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place chicken wings in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Flip wings and cook until browned on the second side, 4-5 more minutes. Remove chicken wings from skillet with tongs and place into a bowl.
Return the empty skillet to medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 4-6 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.
Reduce heat to medium and melt the butter in the skillet. Add the onion, celery and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the vegetables are soft, 6-8 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup chicken broth, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and any accumulated juices from the chicken wings. Add the vegetable mixture, sausage, dried cranberries, pecans and egg mixture to the bowl with the dried bread and toss to combine.
Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish or similar sized casserole dish. Transfer bread mixture to the prepared dish and lightly press in. Arrange cooked chicken wings on the top of the stuffing. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove chicken wings, and fluff with a fork before serving.
Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans Nutrition Notes:
The above nutrition info does not include the whole chicken wings, but does account for increased fat that cooks out of the wings. Added sugars will vary depending on the type of dried cranberries you use. To reduce fat content, try using turkey or chicken sausage instead of pork.