—This post is part of my Canadian Thanksgiving series—
Obviously, stuffing is a key component of any Thanksgiving table, but I had a really hard time finding a simple, classic recipe. Most of the recipes I came across included things like sausage, chestnuts, cornbread, etc., all of which are wonderful ingredients, but just not what I had in mind. I wanted just a basic recipe, with nothing in it that anyone could possibly find offensive. What I wanted, really, was my brother’s mother-in-law’s recipe. Hers was the first stuffing I ever really enjoyed, and is talked about by everyone who’s tasted it. So I went straight to the source and was happy to hear that she was willing to share!
The ingredient list was short – bread, butter, onion, and thyme. Perfect! The only problem was that the recipe called for wonder bread. I was willing to compromise some of my everyday standards for the holiday (I lost track of how much butter I went through that week!), but I just couldn’t see any reason why a better quality white bread wouldn’t produce a delicious stuffing, even if it was not exactly the same as the original version. And while I was upgrading the quality of the bread, why not go all the way and get more use out of my new favorite toy, my breadmaker? But with such a big change, I thought a test run was in order.
I made up a loaf and gave the recipe a go, with yummy, but not ideal results. The test stuffing was a little bland, and didn’t remind hubby enough of his mom’s stuffing. After a quick call to my mother-in-law, I planned a few changes to the final version to add flavor and make it more closely resemble stuffing cooked inside a turkey: I planned to use more liquid and substitute chicken broth for the water. I also decided to add salt, and I cut the bread into cubes (instead of tearing slices into pieces). By the time I was done tweaking, I have no idea how closely it resembled the original but I thought it was delicious! I mean really, how can you go wrong with bread soaked in butter and seasoned with thyme and salt? My two most honest reviewers, hubby and my mom, also seemed to agree, so I think this version is a keeper
Traditional White Bread Stuffing
adapted from a family recipe
Note – this recipe can be multiplied indefinitely, so I’m giving directions for the smallest amount, which should be plenty for 4-5 people (with leftovers). Additional batches can be done in exactly the same manner, so this is a recipe that is not complicated, but can take a long time if you are making a large amount.
1/2 of a large loaf of day old white bread (my loaf was 2 lbs)
1 cup chicken broth (approx)
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion (approx 1 small or 1/2 large onion)
1 rounded tablespoon dried thyme
Cut bread into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes. Place bread in a large bowl and sprinkle with chicken broth (bread should be moist, but not soggy – feel free to use more broth if you like moister stuffing, or less if you’d like it to get more crunchy).
Meanwhile, melt butter in a very large frying pan (I used a 14″ non-stick for this). Sautee onions until translucent (there should be enough onion to just cover the bottom of the pan), and then add bread. Sprinkle with thyme and a generous seasoning with salt. Toss and sautee until bread is golden on the edges. Taste and add additional salt if needed.
If doing multiple batches, start soaking bread and chopping onion as the first batch is cooking, and repeat as needed until you have made enough. Alternatively, having 2 pans going at the same time would speed up the process.
Can be made 1-2 days in advance. Store covered in the fridge (do not freeze), and when ready to reheat, bring to room temperature and warm in the oven, adding a bit more broth if you’d like to keep it especially moist.
1/2 loaf recipe makes 4-5 side dish servings plus leftovers (This is assuming you have a typical array of a side dishes with for your meal – I made 2.5 2-pound loaves of bread for 15 people and had more stuffing than we could possibly eat with company in a week, so I’m scaling back the recommendation from what I did!).