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Some call it stuffing and some call it dressing

November is a fickle month. It is an unpredictable month. You may face a morning bright and crisp then suddenly the autumn skies change to dismal gray and the heavens break loose. The rain pelts down hard and the wind roars across the prairie in sudden swirling gusts. It bites the air and crashes around snapping slender snags.

And one November, Nov. 13, 1937, to be exact, there was 10 inches of snow in the city of Sequim. It is an unpredictable month, for sure.

But what can be predicted is that the most festive dinner of the whole year is in November - Thanksgiving. This is a dinner that demands the traditional dishes. It is a meal one does not want to mess up with inventive and imaginative ideas. But, if you dare to be adventurous and are feeling an overwhelming desire to try something different and feel you can cope with all the complaints, try a new stuffing.

Some people call it stuffing and some call it dressing. Northeasterners are most likely to call it stuffing, whereas in the South it typically is baked in a casserole dish and called dressing. Old cookbooks refer to stuffings as forcemeats, saying they are nothing more than seasoned mixtures used to stuff meats, fish or fowl.

Stuffings should not be a highly seasoned mass of wet dough. They should be a savory, well-seasoned mixture based on bread or on what's grown in your region of the country, such as rice or potatoes. In the Deep South, it usually is made from corn bread that has little or no sugar in it. In Cajun country, it may be based on rice and sausage. On the West Coast it may be sourdough bread combined with apples and wild mushrooms.

Stuffing has been misunderstood and abused. Too often it has been a mixture of white sandwich bread and onions, celery, a bit of seasoning and water and the results are a soggy, bland dressing. The right bread is so important. Soft sandwich breads aren't substantial enough to absorb and carry the weight of broth and vegetables. Taste the bread. It should not disintegrate or turn gummy in the mouth - it should have a little chew. Crusty Italian or French-style loaves are recommended, as is day-old bread, which can soak up more liquid and results in a more flavorful stuffing.

Most of us grew up with the stuffing inside the turkey but more and more recipes call for cooking it separately. This sidesteps potential food safety pitfalls. But, also, unstuffed turkeys cook faster and there's no danger of overcooking the breast meat while you're waiting for the stuffing to reach the right temperature. If you stuff your bird, cook it immediately.

There are many types of stuffings - leek-lemon, apple-pecan, whole wheat-date, chestnut, almond, oyster, herbed-mushroom, apricot-rice, wild rice, potato - my favorite is -



SOUTHERN CORNBREAD AND SAUSAGE STUFFING

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

11/2 cups yellow cornmeal

2 eggs

2 cups milk

4 tablespoons bacon drippings



Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir in cornmeal. Mix eggs with milk and bacon drippings; stir into flour mixture until well blended. Do not over beat. Pour into two greased 9-inch pans; bake in preheated 450-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool; then crumble.



1 pound pork sausage

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon each sage and thyme

1/4 cup minced parsley

salt and pepper to taste



Fry the sausage over a low heat until lightly browned, breaking it into small pieces. Cook the onions and celery in same skillet. Remove from heat and add to the crumbled cornbread along with the sage thyme and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon into 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish; cover with foil and bake in preheated 325-degree oven 45 minutes or until it is heated through.

Makes enough stuffing for a 12- to 15-pound turkey.

- from American Profile magazine



TRADITIONAL BREAD STUFFING WITH HERBS

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

8 cups bread crumbs

1 tablespoon tarragon or sage

1 cup minced parsley

1 tablespoon salt

11/2 tablespoons black pepper



Sauté onions and celery in butter. In a large bowl, combine onions and butter with the remaining ingredients. Makes enough stuffing for a 10-pound turkey.

Spoon into 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish; cover with foil and bake in preheated 325-degree oven 45 minutes or until it is heated through.

- from American Profile magazine



A fruit stuffing can be a delightful change.



FRUIT AND VEGETABLE DRESSING WITH NUTS

1 pound whole wheat bread, torn into pieces and toasted

5 ounces macadamia nuts or pine nuts, toasted

1 cup currants

juice and zest of half an orange

16 ounces vegetable stock

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 small bunch fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped



Combine bread with nuts, currants, orange juice, orange zest and stock; stir until bread is just moistened. Set aside. Sauté celery, carrots and onions in 2 tablespoons butter until soft; stir occasionally. Add garlic and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Stir vegetables into bread mixture; add salt and pepper. Spread evenly in greased 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 40 minutes. When almost cooked, sauté sage leaves in remaining butter until just crispy; sprinkle them evenly over top of stuffing when serving.

- from American Profile magazine



Talk your family into a little epicurean adventure and try something new this Thanksgiving - who knows - you just might start an "irresistible" tradition to be followed every year.



Check out Friends of the Fields Web site at www.friendsofthefields.org. Local ingredients are healthier, fresher and make your meals taste better! Make sure you have the best local ingredients from our productive local farms by supporting Friends of the Fields in its efforts to preserve local farmland today.



CRANBERRY

STUFFING BALLS



1 cup cranberries

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup chopped onion

11/2 cups chopped celery

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 package stuffing mix



Toss cranberries with sugar and let stand.

Sauté onion and celery in butter; add to stuffing mix with the water and white wine. Add cranberries and mix lightly. Shape into balls 1 inch in diameter. Place in a greased shallow baking pan and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Makes about 6-8 stuffing balls.

- from my files



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