Stuffing – also known as dressing, depending on what part of the country you’re from and what your family traditions are – is a traditional Thanksgiving side dish made with bread and seasoned with spices and vegetables, either baked inside the turkey or cooked on the side. I am a firm believer that stuffing should have both a simple ingredient list and a crispy top – and in light of that latter restriction, it’s probably obvious I prefer stuffing cooked outside of a turkey. The contrast between a moist interior and a toasted, oven-browned topping is pretty much what makes stuffing worth having at the dinner table.
In the past, I’ve made vegetarian stuffing and maple cornbread stuffing. This year, inspired by the french onion soup I recently made, I opted to make caramelized onions the centerpiece of my stuffing. It doesn’t take too much time to caramelize the onions, and once they’re done and the celery has been briefly sauteed, everything can be mixed together and put into the baking dish until it’s ready to be put in the oven. I generally make the stuffing up either the night before I’m going to bake it or while the turkey is in the oven, then I just slide it in to the preheated oven while the turkey is resting and being sliced.
You can use just about any kind of bread for this stuffing recipe. I like a plain, sandwich type of bread because it provides the cleanest slate for the flavors of the onion. Whole grain or multi grain breads will work well too, although I wouldn’t choose a bread with a very thick “rustic” crust (those tend to be better on their own and make the stuffing less uniform).
Caramelized Onion Stuffing
6-7 cups bread, cubed
1 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 medium)
1 cup celery, diced
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper (or black pepper)
1 1/2 cups vegetable, beef or chicken stock
1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.
Place bread cubes in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, cook butter and onions, stirring regularly, until onions are golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Add in diced celery and spices (adjust salt and pepper to taste, if needed) and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until celery is just tender. Remove from heat.
Add stock to pan to deglaze the pan and remove any onion bits that may have stuck. Pour mixture over cubed bread, along with the raisins (and/or dried cherries), and gently fold with a spatula until all bread is moist. If necessary, add an extra tablespoon or two of liquid.
Pour stuffing mixture into prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20-25 minutes, until top of stuffing is crisp and browned.
Note: I like beef stock for this stuffing because the flavor combination reminds me a bit of french onion soup. A rich-tasting vegetarian broth is a close second.