Let's be clear about something - when making stuffing, it's always better to slice and dry your own bread cubes. Hands down, the taste and
texture are better.
But let's also be realistic. In the chaos of getting the many components of Thanksgiving dinner on the table in a timely manner, many of us won't have the time to make that happen. It's all good. Truth is, you can make a pretty respectable
stuffing using those bagged stuffing mixes.
It all comes down to how you doctor it (in other words, what you add to it). If all you do is follow the package directions you're doomed to dull stuffing. But if you're willing to toss in some more exciting ingredients, you can have a great stuffing nobody will guess started in a bag.
Start with a 12-ounce bag of stuffing mix,
flavour of your choice. Prepare according to package directions, but add one of the following combinations before baking the stuffing.
• Corned beef hash: SautÈ one finely diced large potato and one pound diced corned beef until the potatoes are tender and the corner beef is browned, then add to and proceed with the recipe.
n Golden stuffing muffins: SautÈ one cup finely diced carrot, one cup finely diced sweet potato, two cups finely diced butternut squash in a bit of oil until tender. Whisk two eggs into whatever broth is called for by the stuffing mix, then add as directed. Scoop the mix into oiled muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.
• Cherry-berry nut: Add one cup chopped dried cherries, one cup chopped dried cranberries, one cup chopped toasted pecans and the zest of two oranges.
• Double onion: Caramelise two thinly sliced onions in a bit of butter over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until well browned. Add to the stuffing mixture and proceed as directed, also stirring in two bunches chopped scallions.
• Sausage-chestnut: Brown one pound of loose sausage and one cup chopped chestnut meats, then add to and proceed with the recipe.
• Forest mushroom and rice: SautÈ eight ounces of mixed mushrooms in butter until well browned. Add the mushrooms and one cup cooked wild rice to the stuffing mixture.
• Orchard ginger: Add two tablespoons grated fresh ginger, one diced large apple and 1 diced large pear.
n Pumpkin-seeded: Stir in 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds, 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, two tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds and 1 cup pumpkin puree.
n Herbed trout: Add two tablespoons each of chopped fresh thyme, sage and chives. Once the stuffing is assembled, gently mix in eight ounces flaked smoked trout or mackerel.
n Mediterranean: Stir in three tablespoons chopped capers, three ounces chopped prosciutto and 1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sundried tomatoes. Once assembled, gently stir in four ounces shredded manchego cheese.