This year I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. It sort of crept up on me, until this weekend I had a flight of full-fledged panic over cooking the entire meal for a new set of in-laws and under the pressure of fulfilling everyone's nostalgic expectations of a real Thanksgiving dinner.
And nowhere is that more pronounced than in the bread stuffing.
It isn't as dramatic as all that, of course. Our four guests are wonderful and laid-back, and I am determined to have a Low-Key Thanksgiving. One where I cook things I already know and like, one where there is a mininum of trying to impress and a maximum of homey comfort.
But still, there is the stuffing to be dealt with. There may be no dish on the Thanksgiving table so freighted with nostalgia and strong opinions as bread stuffing. It's a dish that many of us only have once a year, so our expectations and hunger for it are strong.
I have never made bread stuffing from scratch (surprisingly, since I love it and could eat it every week). The Zuni bread salad is the closest thing I've ever done, and it's not really the same at all. Also, to complicate matters, we're having a chopped-up turkey a la Mark Bittman - braised in pieces and not stuffed. I love the taste of stuffing baked in a turkey but I am not attempting it this year.
So, my question. How do you make your stuffing, and what are your tips, tricks, and secrets? (If you would be so kind as to share.) I am planning on a simple stuffing - the classic flavors, made with real French bread cubes. We like the classic, simple tastes here - celery, onions, maybe the turkey giblets too. I am looking for a moist, dark, rich stuffing without anything sweet or too offbeat. Any tips?
Related: How Are You Cooking Your Turkey?