It’s my FAVORITE week of the YEAR! And I got Thursday and Friday off! In the restaurant industry that is like winning the lottery! And thanks to the glorious services of AirTran, I’ll be home for Thanksgiving! Ready to eat. More specifically, ready to eat stuffing and cranberry sauce, my two favorite players on the Thanksgiving Day Team.
I was having an in-depth philosophical discussion about these very two sides just last night. Allow me to recap. I contend that you can have Thanksgiving without squash, without mashed potatoes, even without turkey (there, I said it)… but you cannot give thanks without stuffing and cranberry sauce. They’re the two essentials. The co-captains. The leaders of the pack. Of course, squash and mashed potatoes are great—don’t get me wrong… but they’re not as quintessentially Thanksgiving. Think about it… am I right or am I right?
So I thought I would try my hand at making these two powerhouse side dishes from scratch. As much as I love the Pepperidge Farm just-add-butter stuffing and the canned, gelatinous, tube-o’-cranberry flavor (I seriously do love this stuff…), this is a cooking blog so I decided to cook. Stuffing is basically stale bread soaked with butter and meat juices. Cranberry sauce is basically stewed and sweetened cranberries. Simple enough!
So, get your stuffing rolling first. Dice 2 small onions and get them in a pan on low heat with some butter. Allow that to stew while you dice an apple. Throw in the apple with the stewing onions while you mince your garlic and finely chop your herbs. Toss in the garlic, herbs, and salt, along with some apple cider. Finally, cut up some stale brown bread into cubes and toss it in. Stir it all together, check for seasoning, and remove from heat. Finished!
I bought a chicken because I knew a turkey would be way too big for the-boy-friend and me. Pat the bird dry with some paper towels and liberally season the inner cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff it with the stuffing (don’t pack it in too tightly or the bird may not cook evenly), lay the bird in the pan (breast side up), and generously season the outside with salt and pepper as well. I cut up about 1 ½ tablespoons of butter to dot the bird with before throwing it into a 350⁰ oven for about an hour and a half (20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes extra).
Any extra stuffing can go in a casserole dish for later.
Now, for the cranberry sauce! In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, cider, salt, honey, and brown sugar. Allow that to stew on a low heat until the cranberries are broken down and sauce-like. Taste it. If you like your sauce sweeter, add more brown sugar.
Throughout the bird’s roasting, periodically baste it with the juices collecting in the bottle of the pan. When the bird is done (it’s done when you prick the crease between the body and the drumstick with a knife and the juices run out clear), allow it to rest at room temperature.
I took the bird out of its roasting pan and placed it on top of the extra stuffing in the casserole dish. Get rid of all the clear liquid fat from the roasting pan but save the dark brown flavorful liquid. Drizzle this on top of the bird and the extra stuffing.
After 20-30 minutes of resting, the bird should be ready to carve. Happy Thanksgiving!
For the stuffing:
- ½ stick butter
- 2 small onions or 1 large onion, diced
- 1 apple, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 ½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
- 1 ½ teaspoon finely chopped thyme
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup apple cider
- 4 cups diced brown bread
For the cranberry sauce:
- 12 ounce package of frozen cranberries
- ½ cup apple cider
- A rounded ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar