“Sturdy oatmeal bread is soaked in a hearty mixture of eggs, sautéed vegetables, turkey bacon and fresh herbs then baked to make an almost soufflé-like dressing.”
Is it “stuffing” or “dressing”? This highly debatable question frequently gets discussed at the Thanksgiving table. Here’s my answer. If your bread mixture is packed into the cavity of your turkey or other bird, it’s stuffing. If it’s placed in a pan separate from your bird to cook, then it’s dressing. Actually, the recipes for dressing and stuffing are nearly identical, most calling for the same ingredients and method. So really, cooking it in the bird or sans bird is totally a matter of preference.
Speaking of preference, that’s what dressing is all about and it starts with the bread. Some people swear by cornbread, yet others like the distinct flavor of sourdough. Most kinds of bread can make a good base for dressing, but sometimes the simplest bread is the best. I like to use a good quality oatmeal bread to make my dressing. It provides enough texture to absorb flavors and broth, but isn’t so light that it turns to mush in the oven.
To boost flavor, I like to add a little bacon and mushroom to my relatively traditional take on dressing. This gives the dish umami, a savory flavor that I often find lacking in other dressing recipes. Bringing in the egg adds moisture to the dressing and provides a fluffy texture similar to that of a soufflé. And with the addition of fresh herbs, I’m sure you will agree this is a dressing that shouldn’t just be relegated to the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Watching your sodium intake? Dressing can be laden in sodium because it’s made with salt-heavy ingredients. To pare down the sodium in this recipe, start by omitting the bacon. Swap it and the butter for 1 generous tablespoon of olive oil. Also, look at labels on store-bought broths and compare, then choose the one that has the lowest amount of sodium.
Food safety tip: Time flies when you’re having fun, but put a timer on any food that sits out on your buffet table. Keep hot foods hot by placing them in chafing dishes or other heating vessels so they maintain a temperature of 140°F or warmer. Otherwise, follow the two-hour rule – refrigerate any leftovers within two hours or more.
Oatmeal Bread Dressing with Bacon and Fresh Herbs
- 1 pound oatmeal bread cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 slices turkey bacon or lean pork bacon, chopped
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 medium onion, peeled, washed and chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped or sliced
- 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, etc.) cleaned and chopped
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, washed, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, washed
- 2 – 2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the cubed bread out onto a large, rimmed cookie sheet and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Increase oven temperature to 350°F.
- Add the bacon to a non-stick sauté pan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the sauté pan, and once melted, add the onion, celery and carrot. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the same mixing bowl with the bacon. Add the mushrooms to the sauté pan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add to the mixing bowl.
- Toss the cooled bread crumbs into the mixing bowl along with the eggs, sage and thyme. Mix lightly until incorporated. Pour 2 cups of the warmed chicken broth over the bread mixture, stirring gently. Let mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes, until broth has been fully absorbed. Spread the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish that has been coated with non-stick spray. Add additional broth if bread looks dry. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until top is lightly brown, about 20 minutes.
- Let dressing rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.