Pretzel Bun Stuffing

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Have you ever been in a restaurant and decided on a nice, big, juicy burger for dinner? You’re super-excited and think nothing can be better than your highly anticipated burger? So you place your order with the server, and then s/he asks you, “Do you want that on a regular bun or a pretzel bun?” Literally NO ONE EVER has responded with, “Ehh, just give me the regular bun.” Why? Because even though you were excited about that highly anticipated, big, juicy burger in and of itself… a pretzel bun just makes everything better!

Ok now, translate that sentiment to Thanksgiving stuffing. We made this stuffing entirely from pretzels buns. When we made stuffing last year for Friendsgiving, we added a few pretzel buns for a little surprise, and it worked well. So this year, we decided to up the ante and go with 100% pretzel bun! The idea of pretzel bun stuffing inspired me to add a few non-traditional touches to this recipe, but it’s not so non-traditional that people will turn their noses up at it. Honestly, given the overwhelming herbaciousness of the stuffing (with very traditional herbs!), you’d never notice the extra ingredients. But you will know just how delicious it tastes as you inhale it!

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Pretzel Bun Stuffing

Ingredients: 
  • 8 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 1 high quality beef hot dog, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3+ cups beef stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Toss your finely chopped hot dog into a pan over medium heat with just a splash of broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the hot dog has released a little fat.
  4. Add the 1/2 cup of butter to the pan, followed by the onions and garlic. Top with fresh ground black pepper. Saute for ~5 minutes as the onions soften.
  5. Now add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  6. Pour this mixture over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt another 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of beef stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used just an additional 1/4 cup this time.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large glass baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.
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Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Let me tell you about Thanksgiving… it is my favorite holiday! Two of my favorite things in the world are food and family, and Thanksgiving combines both of those. I love just sitting around, visiting with all of my extended family, while simultaneously grazing on heaping plates of carbs. And since both my mom and my dad have equally large families, we get to repeat this exercise in over-indulgence twice in the day! I like to stuff my plate with all the delicious things – turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, all of the vegetables, buttered rolls, and ladles full of gravy over top of it all! But you know what I’ve never been a huge fan of…? The sweet potato casserole. I think I feel like it doesn’t quite belong with the rest of the savory stuff and you don’t put gravy on top, so it really just doesn’t fit on my plate.

But this dish? This trades the extra sweetness of marshmallows for a more savory topping. If you’re more of a savory kind of person like me, you could substitute this out for the traditional sweet potato casserole for your Thanksgiving celebration. I certainly would prefer it… although I’m not going to lie, you might get some push-back from the traditionalists. These are easy to make (and quick compared to a lot of the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner), so tell the traditionalists to relax and take a bite! They’ll be converted by the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the potatoes combined with the slightly crispy topping.

Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃🦃🦃

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Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 4 small-medium sweet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the sweet potato, trying to maintain uniform thickness of ~1/4 inch.
  3. Lay them out on a foil-line cookie sheet.
  4. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients except for parsley. Brush the mixture over top all of the sweet potatoes.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve topped with a bit more Parmesan if you’re feeling greedy 🙂
Side dish for 4-6

Basic Mixed Poultry Stock

We have a very specific Thanksgiving tradition… We like to steal the turkey bones. All of the bones. We gather them all up like little squirrels to take home. Sounds a little weird, but it’s the best freebie leftover you can grab! Hide those bones away in your refrigerator until you’re ready, and then you can create some stock that puts the ones you buy at the store to shame.

This is mixed poultry stock, not pure turkey stock as we’ve done in the past, because we had the bones of several smoked chicken quarters too. The same principles apply whether you have a whole turkey carcass, a bunch of chicken bones, or a combination of both.

In even better news, making homemade stock is one of the easiest things ever! It sounds a little bit daunting, but it really isn’t. Time consuming? Sort of… It’s a long process, but it’s mostly hands-off.

What You’ll Need

  • A large, deep pot
  • A large bowl
  • Bones
  • Water
  • Colander
  • Large piece of cheesecloth

How You Do It

  1. Place your bones in a large, deep pot.
  2. Cover with water.
  3. Bring to a boil, but then immediately reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours.
  4. Cool, overnight if necessary. Skim fat and debris off the top.
  5. Return to the stove, over low heat. Once warmed through, remove the bones.
  6. Double-fold cheesecloth and place in a standard colander.
  7. Pour liquid from the pot, through the cheesecloth, into the large bowl. Do this slowly! (Two person job!!)
  8. Shake out the majority of the debris caught in the cheesecloth and return to the colander. Pour the liquid from the bowl, again through the cheesecloth, back into the pot.
  9. Repeat steps 7 & 8 indefinitely, until you feel like the liquid has completely cleared.
  10. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a light simmer.
  11. Simmer, tasting intermittently, until the flavor has concentrated to your liking.

Note – many people add fragrant, flavorful herbs and vegetables (onions, celery, etc) to the pot for the initial simmering. This will still create a lovely stock, but we really enjoy the flavor of the pure, bones only, stock.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

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Last night was had Friendsgiving with our eight of our good friends. It was a great night to spend with some of our favorite people, pretend we’re grownups, and experiment with some Thanksgiving recipes. I don’t know about y’all, but my grandmothers, aunts, and mother have the handle on the main aspects of big family holiday meals. My generation can contribute a dessert or appetizer, but none of us have graduated to the important elements like turkey, potatoes, or gravy. Because of this, I’d never made stuffing before yesterday! And I’m not going to lie… I had no idea how to do it. But thanks to my subscription to Bon Appetit and the internet, I figured it out. For my first stuffing adventure, I wanted to stay pretty traditional. My only personalizing twist was the addition of the pretzel buns. It worked out well, I think because this stuffing had great texture and flavor. (And don’t tell anyone, but I think mine was better than ones I’ve had in the past.)

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Which brings me to my next controversial statement. I called this “stuffing.” I grew up in Virginia and always have known the herb-y, bread-y, Thanksgiving side dish that can either be found stuffed inside a turkey or baked in a casserole dish as “stuffing.” Selim, the Ohioan, agrees. I learned last night however, that all my native South Carolinian friends refer to this as “dressing.” But they also felt like my dish “wasn’t quite dressing” like their moms/aunts/grandmas made it. What was the difference? Unclear. None of us could figure out if there truly was a difference between dressing and stuffing, or if it was just regional semantics.

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Good thing Google exists… In my googling I learned several things that sort of answered the question and sort of confused me even more. Some facts you never knew you wanted to know about stuffing:

  1. There is definitely a regional variation. The South uses the term “dressing,” while the Mid-Atlantic up through New England and most of the rest of the country prefers “stuffing.” Turns out there’s also a segment of the country (Pennsylvania Dutch country) that calls it “filling.”
  2. Many believe that “stuffing” can only be cooked inside the turkey (or another bird). This is logical based on the definition of “to stuff,” and is very commonly cited as the main difference between the two, but is not universally accepted.
  3.  Many others believe that “dressing” has a cornbread base while “stuffing” has a white bread base. This is even less universally accepted than above and likely is just based on the fact that Southern cooks frequently make their dressing/stuffing with cornbread or biscuits.
  4. The first documentation of this concept dates back more than a thousand years. Recipes for stuffing animals appeared in the Roman cookbook Apicius, which scholars date to the late 4th or early 5th century.
  5. Victorians in the mid to late 1800s first started using the word “dressing,” as “stuffing” was apparently too crude of a word. Our genteel Southern ancestors evidently agreed.
  6. The National Turkey Federation says the terms can be used interchangeably. They’re probably the closest thing we have to an expert opinion, so we’ll go with that.

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Thanksgiving Stuffing

(Recipe based on several from Bon Appetit magazineone, two, three.)
Ingredients: 
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 1 loaf of French bread, torn
  • 4 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3+ cups turkey stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Slice bacon into medium lardons. Saute over medium heat until slightly crispy. Remove and add into the bowl with the bread.
  4. Leave the bacon grease in the pan, lower heat slightly, and add 1/2 cup of butter.
  5. Once butter has melted, return heat to medium and add onions. Cook for 5 minutes and then add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 8 minutes.
  6. Pour butter and onions over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of turkey stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional turkey stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used an additional cup total.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.