Monday, November 22, 2010

7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Dressing

My top tips to perfect your holiday dressing or stuffing.

How to Perfect Your Holiday Dressing

The perfect dressing, or stuffing... however you look at it, can be a bit elusive, and to be honest it just takes practice to get it to the consistency that you like. Some people like their dressing on the dry side, others like it almost soupy. Here are some of my favorite dressing tips that I've picked up along my way of practice.

Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Dressing

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish

1. Use very dry bread and/or cornbread.  Ideally, they both should be day old, stale bread, so that it dries out well. Any kind of bread can be used - toasted sliced sandwich bread or leftover biscuits or rolls, toasted in the oven until crisp and dry, even saltine crackers will do. Whatever you have - use it up! That's how we roll in The South. For my cornbread dressing I don't like the texture of a pure cornbread dressing all alone, so I prefer to mix my cornbread with some bread.

2. Taste.  Add in all of the seasonings and taste the dressing before you add in the raw eggs, because the flavor then is pretty much gonna be the flavor it will be once baked. I like to use a mixture of seasonings that is a copycat version of Bell's seasoning since I can't find the Bell's brand down here. Adjust the seasonings as needed, then add the eggs and add in additional stock if it isn't moist enough. There are some folks who add in boiled eggs to their dressing. I'm not sure why this practice started, but since it's a cooked dressing, I use raw eggs, which I feel help both with the flavor, but also help with sort of fluffing up the dressing a bit. It may be that chopped up boiled eggs adds a different kind of texture to the dressing - maybe one day I'll end up giving it a try.

3. Texture. Some people prefer their dressing on the dry side. Others like it more wet. Some like it more fluffy. Make it the way that you like it. Either way, you still don't want stuffing that is too dry, and at the other end of the spectrum, you certainly don't want it to be really wet and soupy. Perfect stuffing is somewhere in between there ... on which end depends on the consistency you prefer.

4. Always understand that the stock measurements in a dressing recipe are simply a guide and never written in stone. If you use bread or cornbread that is fresh and not day old, it will affect the way liquids are absorbed. Sometimes I add in a bit of canned turkey gravy along with the stock for extra flavor. Toss that in before you begin adding in any stock, and only add as much stock as you need to get it to the consistency you like. In other words, start with a little bit of liquid, toss it and add more only as needed to get it to the consistency you want. I usually recommend somewhere between 4 and 6 cups of stock or other liquid for a large pan of dressing, and generally find that I fall right about in the middle, at about 5 cups of stock for a moist dressing. You'll use less if you like your dressing more fluffy.

5. Moisture. Sauteed vegetables, butter, eggs, and stock/broth are what give your dressing it's moisture. Saute the vegetables in butter to soften them, and then transfer the entire skillet to the bread.

6. Soft or Crunchy?  Cover the dressing with aluminum foil before baking for a softer dressing and remove in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Like a harder, crunchy top? Then bake it uncovered. For the best of both worlds, cover the dressing halfway, then remove the cover for the remaining cook time.

7. How to fix a too dry or too wet stuffing?  If your dressing doesn't turn out right, don't fret. You can usually fix it.  If you find your stuffing is too dry, add additional warmed broth to it, stir well, and return to the oven, checking periodically. If the stuffing is overly wet and too gummy, cook it uncovered for a bit longer, checking periodically.

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©Deep South Dish
What are some of your favorite tips to perfect your own holiday dressing?
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My collection of Southern Thanksgiving recipes can be found right here.

My Collection of Dressing and Stuffing Recipes:

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing
Southern Cornbread and Oyster Dressing
Chicken and Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread Sage Dressing
Homemade Herb Dressing
Chicken and Herb Dressing
Seafood and Eggplant Dressing
Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons
Cajun Rice Dressing (Dirty Rice)

Posted by on November 22, 2010
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