Contains: Wheat, gluten, nightshades. Is: A family (mostly) traditional holiday turkey dressing and gravy pair of recipes. You can combine these with my earlier recipe – or with any roasted turkey / large chicken you want to make.
I cannot for the life of me find these recipes of hers. She gave them to me back in the 80s or 90s, and I dutifully copied into my then-computer and put it on one of those floppy disks that I can no longer read.
I have to re-create! I recall some of what she did, but…
At any rate, the gravy is easy to re-create, it’s the stuffing that will be worked out. The gravy recipe is at the BOTTOM of this post!
We always called it “stuffing” since in the earliest days it was used to stuff inside the bird, which gave it extra turkey flavor – and what didn’t fit inside ended up in a casserole dish. Once the health concerns about cooking items densely stuffed into a turkey came out, we ended up putting it all in an (even-larger) casserole dish and baking it in the oven alongside the turkey.
I remember Mom’s had Jimmy Dean sausage, so I used this, but next year I’ll make my own sausage from local ground pork. Jimmy Dean is now owned by Tyson, and I’d rather not support them – but needed that taste this time to note what I need to do next year. And, even though the family hailed from Kentucky, she never made cornbread stuffing. Sometimes she bought the Italian-seasoned croutons, but I choose to go with real bread here.
You can find a basic recipe for the chicken bone broth/stock here. The main difference in the one I created for this dish is that I added in the turkey feet. Simply: poultry bones and cartilage, some chicken meat, one onion, that splash of vinegar, water to cover. Boil, remove froth, simmer for about 4 hours, strain through a colander and save the liquids. You could also make this with a true mirepoix, but I added such ingredients later. Cool, remove excess fat from the top, if any. Freeze if you are not making this dressing right away. (I made this about 3 days in advance, so it got to hang out in the fridge.) You can use store-bought substitutes but you’ll lack in some of the flavor.
I don’t think Mother used bell peppers or the parsnips/carrots, but I decided this recipe would still follow her spirit. I made a half-recipe, but I’m writing this as a full recipe below. Some items were not measured.
Mom’s Poultry Stuffing
- 2/3 – 3/4 a loaf of a good quality bakery-style sliced bread (or make your own – hey, Mom didn’t, so I won’t either…)
- 1 package Jimmy Dean sage-enhanced pork sausage – 12 ounces / grams, or suitable substitute.
- Optional, but I removed the skin from the turkey neck, and chopped it up to brown and crisp when cooking the sausage…
- 1 yellow onion, chopped.
- 3 – 4 stalks of celery, chopped, and you can include the leaves.
- 2 – 3 mid-sized parsnips, peeled and chopped. You can substitute with carrots.
- 1 large green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped.
- Around 3-4 cups of poultry stock – you’ll be deciding by the texture of your stuffing when you mix it in. (Be sure to save some poultry stock for the gravy! – if you are running low on stock and have to punt, sub in HERE with water, NOT in the gravy)
- 3 good sprigs of thyme – remove stems and just use leaves.
- A small handful of fresh sage, chopped.
- 1 long sprig of rosemary, stem removed. More as you wish.
- 1 heaping teaspoon of dried marjoram leaves.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
For the bread: Chop the slices into squares of about 3/4 inch / 2 cm size. You can allow them to dry overnight on your countertop or stick them in your un-heated oven. I found they didn’t fully dry, so I set my oven at its lowest temperature setting (170 F / 77 F) for about 15 minutes the day of making this dish. Adjust but watch carefully based on your bread, your oven, and your needs.
For the sausage: Pan fry by breaking up the sausage in a skillet, and allow to cook through until no longer pink, and some browning has occurred. About 12-15 minutes. (Of course, add in that turkey neck skin if you have it and want that.)
For the poultry stock: If yours is home made, put into a sauce pan and heat until warm, so that any gelatin effect is now liquid. Taste and add salt as needed.
In a large bowl, add everything but the poultry stock and ground pepper. Slowly add the stock and gently mix with a large spoon. You want the bread to absorb the liquid, but not turn into soup. Since you will be baking this, you can make this a bit looser than your final product.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper (and any of the other seasonings). Decant into your casserole baking dish.
Bake uncovered alongside the turkey (at 300 – 325 F / C) for 40-60 minutes (depending on oven temperature, and how deep your casserole dish is – check occasionally). It should be slightly browned and a little crispy on top. If your turkey is done before the dressing, it can always cook longer while the turkey rests. If the dressing is done first, pull it out and cover to keep it warm – and put it back in the oven when the turkey comes out to rest, at which point you could just turn off the oven. (This depends on what ELSE you are making for your feast, of course!)
Personally, I never understood that starchy, pallid, anemic AND tasteless poultry “gravy” that comes in a jar. NEVER. White gravy is simply so unappetizing. You need to use the drippings to make a GOOD gravy, and if you don’t – you are missing out on a superb taste experience. Unfortunately it has come to the point that even people who make their gravy from “scratch” are missing out by ignoring those tasty drippings, and creating more-of-the-same pallid starchy dregs.
Now, you DID save the giblets from the turkey cavity, right? I have no idea why people are so a-feared of innards these days in the Western world. I will admit there were a couple years where I nabbed the turkey heart after it was cooked and before Mom could put it in the gravy – that muscle is just SOOOOooo good!
For the gravy, however, the liver simply doesn’t work – Mom would save it for other purposes. What you want here is the turkey heart (yeah, I restrained myself this year), gizzard, and neck.
You also want all the pan drippings from the turkey proper. This turkey, being lean and pastured and all, had very little drippings. Even with the butter she’d gotten rubbed down with. Fortunately my friend Katie brought her leftover drippings and we used those to more than top off what I collected. (I’d recommend saving up drippings over time and freezing, if you don’t have a dripping-bearing friend attending!)
But I will assume most of my readership has a supermarket turkey (even a Whole Foods supermarket turkey) in writing up the recipe below.
Mom’s Giblet Gravy
- Giblets and neck – heart, gizzard, neck, from your turkey. You can remove the skin from the neck – check the Stuffing/Dressing portion of this post for an idea there. (Or just de-fat it by crisping it up in your oven for a deserved snack while cooking…)
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup poultry stock.
- Any and all the drippings you can collect.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Hey, maybe a pinch more of fresh sage!
- About 2 heaping tablespoons of flour (I didn’t measure).
In a small sauce pan, bring the giblets to a boil in water to cover. Reduce heat to a simmer. This will take about 30 minutes to cook through, although I found the neck needed an hour.
Chop up the heart and gizzard into small diced pieces. Shred the neck with your fingers, removing all bones, but saving all the neck meat.
If you do this in advance, save refrigerated until ready to make the gravy.
With about 1/4 or so of warm drippings, add in the flour and mix until it is thickened. Add everything above (other than the giblets) back to the gravy, including the stock, and combine. If you think it is necessary and you have the proper de-fatting cup (I didn’t – the item is ridiculously pricey) you can strain out the fat. There really wasn’t much fat at all, and a little won’t do you harm.
Add in the giblets, heat on the range, and pour into your serving vessel. And remember: if it is not browned, it is NOT worthy to be called gravy!
These recipes are shared with: