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Dressings from Coast to Coast

Five Great Stuffings for Holiday Turkey

By Trish Bales

Are you daring enough to try something new this year at Thanksgiving? A new dish for example? Would this totally throw things out of whack on this most pressured day of cooking and pleasing family and friends?

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I've got an idea! Nothing too strange, of course.

All across America on Thanksgiving Day, elaborate feasts and celebrations take place. Traditionally a turkey is prepared and served; however, with the changing times, changing diets, and the number of different ethnicities represented in America, new traditions and dishes are constantly emerging.

Here in Texas, we like our turkey dressing made with bread and eggs and celery and onions. We may change it up a bit with nuts and herbs and spices (and maybe a few jalapenos), but these basic ingredients usually find their way on to most Texans' Thanksgiving tables.

I checked into different North American traditions and found that, from coast to coast, dressings differ quite drastically and according to the staples of the regional cuisine and culture.

I invite you to explore the five different recipes below. Feel free to tweak them a bit with your families' favorite flavors. Of course, I never hear anyone complain about the turkey dressing served in Texas so by all means, stick to what you've got if it's what you like!

Minnesota Wild Rice Dressing
Hawaiian Sweet Potato & Walnut Stuffing
North American Butternut Squash Stuffing
Louisiana Oyster Dressing
California Wild Mushroom Dressing

Minnesota Wild Rice Dressing

  • 4 slices Turkey Bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 package (4 ounces) wild rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 pound Turkey Breakfast Sausage, cooked
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Preheat oven to 325F degrees. In medium skillet over medium heat, saut the bacon until almost crisp. Add onion, celery and mushrooms; continue cooking until vegetables are tender. In a large bowl combine bacon mixture, wild rice, breadcrumbs, sausage, oregano and sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired. Spoon dressing into lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish. Bake, covered, at 325F degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Hawaiian Sweet Potato & Walnut Stuffing

  • 1 cup of chopped bacon pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 stick butter
  • Poultry seasoning, to taste
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups sweet bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 cup steamed, cubed sweet potatoes
  • Salt and pepper
Cook the bacon, add the onion and celery and brown. Add the salt and pepper, butter, poultry seasoning (start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste) and 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Add the toasted sweet bread cubes, steamed cubed sweet potatoes and walnuts. Then stuff the bird or just plain eat the stuffing!

North American Butternut Squash Stuffing

  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups white, brown or wild rice, cooked
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread cubes
  • 1/4 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
Toss the chopped squash, onion and garlic with the olive oil and roast in an ovenproof container at 450F for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until tender. In a bowl, combine cooked rice, remainder of ingredients, and cooled squash, onion and garlic. Place in a baking dish and heat for 20 minutes at 350F until heated through.

Note: Although this is called stuffing, it's not baked inside a turkey or other entre. It's safer to bake stuffing (or dressing) separately.

Louisiana Oyster Dressing

  • 1 large or three medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dozen oysters, chopped (if oysters are large, 1 dozen will be plenty)
  • 2 thick slices French bread or more, torn into pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Soak bread in water from oysters. Saut the onion until softened (about 5 minutes) and add the chopped bell pepper. Add the oysters and garlic. Let cook a few minutes then add bread. Reduce heat and cook slowly until all the oyster water is gone. Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg. More bread or breadcrumbs can be added before egg if dressing is too watery.

California Wild Mushroom Dressing

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups fresh Italian bread, crust removed and cubed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped (preferably apple bacon)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, wood ear or morel, stems trimmed, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup Marsala wine
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 6-cup baking dish with the butter and set aside.

In a bowl, soak the bread cubes in the milk. In a large saut pan or skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. To the fat in the pan, add the onions, celery, garlic and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the Marsala, stirring with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and mix well, breaking up the pieces of bread. Add the mushroom mixture, bacon, chopped thyme and oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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