Stuffing is IT for me on Thanksgiving. Without stuffing, it could just be any other holiday. There are four non-negotiable ingredients in stuffing, onion, celery, sage and bread, the rest is totally up for grabs. Some of my past faves have included bacon/walnut and apple/sausage, but this year, we couldn't put meat in it because we were feeding veggie-people.
I grabbed a pomegranate from the store, knowing that I would find an occasion to use it, and was inspired to pop it into the stuffing, along with a bit of diced apple. The seeds gave a bit of crunch and pop to the stuffing. A little citrus surprise in each bite. Also not for nothing, but bacon would be amazing in this too, because BACON.
I make stuffing once a year, I think because it imparts something particularly special to Thanksgiving. You make it early, so you get the smell of onion, celery and sage filling the house as you cook, inviting people into your house. Every family has a tradition or a go-to recipe or you can also do creative amazing twists each year. Making it has a messy, homey feel that reminds me so much of my beloved Granny, who taught me how to cook. That's what you want during the holiday, to create joyous food that reminds of us of the people that we love. Not to get too philosophical about a bread mixture, but that's stuffing for me.
Apple + Pomegranate Stuffing
2 tablespoons butter
1 large white onion, diced
4 stalks celery, split in half and diced
1 leek, split and finely chopped
1 bunch sage, stemmed and chopped
1 punch flat leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
1 large pomegranate, all seeds removed.
1 large loaf of bread, torn to shreds and preferably really stale, or slowly dried out in the oven.
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
salt and pepper
Add a glug of olive oil and the butter to a deep pan. Let the butter melt gently. Add the onion, celery and leeks and cook at medium to low heat for 20 minutes. You want them to be really soft. Add the salt and pepper 10 minutes in. Add the apple, sage and parsley and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. In the pot or large bowl, add the bread to the mixture. Add the pomegranate seeds. Ladle in the stock a bit at a time, tossing the bread mixture to make sure it's evenly absorbed. You want the bread to be pliable and squishy but not soaked. Fresher bread will require less than stale bread. Smash all the stuffing into a baking dish. You want it to be really packed in there.
Place stuffing in a 350F oven. I like to bake it for a looooong time, like 3 hours. But some like less. I cover it for the first bit, and then uncover it for the last 30-40 minutes to get a really golden crust.