Oven-baked stuffing is a classic Thanksgiving side dish. While there are fans of stuffing that is actually stuffed in the bird, I find that stuffing baked in a baking dish is a lot more satisfying because the dish will have a crispy top and a perfectly moist base (and you don’t have to worry about the juice from an undercoked bird running into it). I have made all kinds of different stuffing recipes in the past, from Bacon, Pumpkin and Pecan Stuffing to Caramelized Onion Stuffing and Roasted Garlic Stuffing to Vegetarian Stuffing and a Browned Butter and Sage Stuffing. Most of these recipes are on the savory side, and while they offer a lot of great flavors, I wanted to try something a little different this year and I did that by incorporating some fruity elements into my stuffing.
Cranberry, Apple and Sage Stuffing has some savory flavors and some sweet flavors, for a balanced side dish that stands out from the crowd. This stuffing has a tart element to it that is a little unusual, but makes it a nice compliment to rich gravy and roast turkey at the Thanksgiving table. The tartness primarily comes from the fresh cranberries in the stuffing, which are bright in both color and flavor in a way that dried cranberries (which I sometimes include in my stuffing) are not. The apples also bring a bit of a sweet-tart flavor to the stuffing, although the degree of that depends on what kind of apples you’re using. I prefer to use not-too-tart apples, such as Honeycrisp.
Both fresh or dried sage will work in this recipe. Sage is a spice that I love in stuffing and this recipe is no exception, because it really goes very well with apples. I tend to use fresh sage when I have it. If you need to substitute dried sage for fresh, you should use approx 1 tbsp (instead of 3 tbsp of fresh) and make sure that your dried sage is still relatively fresh so you get the best flavor in the finished stuffing.
Cranberry, Apple and Sage Stuffing
1 1/2 lbs bread (any kind)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup diced celery
3 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups diced apple
1/2 cup whole cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
approx 2 3/4 cups chicken broth or stock
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish/baking pan.
Cut the bread into rough 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and cook diced onions for 2-3 minute, just until they start to become tender. Add garlic and celery and cook until celery is tender, about 4-6 minutes.
Transfer onions mixture to a medium bowl. Add fresh sage. Add in apples, cranberries and pecans.
Pour vegetable mixture over the bread cubes in the large bowl. Add chicken stock (use slightly more if you prefer a wetter stuffing) and fold gently with a spatula until vegetables are evenly distributed and all bread cubes are moistened.
Pour into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown.