Most people would rather eat the stuffing than what's been stuffed, as Irma Rombauer noted in "Joy of Cooking": "'No more turkey,' announced the little boy at the Thanksgiving dinner table, 'but I'd like another helping of that bread he ate.'"
Turkey may be a native American bird, but somehow it has made its mark, albeit a small one, in the cooking of other countries. Of course, there are recipes for turkey in Mexican cookbooks, but you can also find them in Spanish, French, German,Italian, Russian and Armenian cookbooks. Whether many people in those countries actually eat turkey or it's just their emigrees to the United Staes who have included recipes for it in their cookbooks is not always easy to determine.
But no matter. When foreigners stuff a turkey they don't use a soggy, sage-seasoned bread stuffing. And if they use bread at all it is secondary to all the other wonderful things they put in the bird: ground veal, sausage, mushrooms, nuts, bulgur, semolina, sauerkraut, raisins, pears, walnuts, hot chiles, olives, bananas. In short, almost anything.
Without suggesting for one minute that "Joy of Cooking" has any soggy, over-saged bread stuffings, it is still interesting to note that of its 23 stuffing recipes 15 are bread-based. And when you look in the stores at holiday time, there are at least 10 variations on bread cubes for stuffing, only one of which isn't white bread. For southerners there is cornbread stuffing mix.
But even if you, like Vice President Mondale, have been making Thanksgiving dinner exactly the same every year (he stuffs his turkey with hot dog rolls -- claims they have more flavor than white bread), perhaps you would like to make one slight change. . . in the stuffing.
Bread, rice, semolina or meat -- no matter, there are still good sound rules to follow for stuffing a turkey or any other bird. And the one around which all the others revolve is that the bird should not be stuffed in advance of roasting. This is not some sanitary fussbudget's rule that goes along with not letting the dog eat in the kitchen: This one is crucial.
If you stuff a turkey in advance and refrigerate it, the interior of the stuffing never has a chance to cool down sufficiently to prevent bacteria from growing, nor does it ever have a chance to get hot enough during roasting to prevent the same thing from happening. The safety temperature zones for food are above 140 degrees or below 40 degbrees. For the same reason stuffing should be spooned out of the bird immediately upon removal from the oven.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with preparing the stuffing in advance and chilling it separately in the refrigerator. Before stuffing the bird, the chill should be taken off by leaving the dressing out about 20 minutes.
Never pack the bird with the dressing. Stuff loosely because the dressing expands as it cooks.
If you are trying to judge how much stuffing you need, allow 1/2 cup per pound of bird. But don't worry if you have too much. Place the extra in a shallow baking pan; cover and bake along with the bird, for 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the amount of stuffing.
If raw pork or sausage is called for, be sure to cook it until the pink is gone before adding it to other ingredients. Never use raw pork in stuffing.
Bread, bulgur, kasha, mushrooms. Just like the little boy, everyone will want seconds of these. GERMAN STUFFING WITH SAUERKRAUT Enough for 10-pound turkey, goose or two 5-pound ducks) 1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored and diced 1 large onion, finely chopped 3 pounds sauerkraut, rinsed thoroughly and drained 3 juniper berries 1 tablespoon caraway seeds 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 large raw potato, peeled Salt and pepper to taste
Saute apple and onion in butter until soft. Add well-drained sauerkraut, juniper berries, caraway, and cook over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine; raise heat and simmer. Grate potato in food processor, blender or with hand grater. Add it bit by bit to sauerkraut mixture, stirring. Cook until mixture has thickened and becomes dry. Season with salt and pepper. Cool before stuffing bird. GREEK STUFFING WITH PINE NUTS (Enough for 10-pound bird or several Cornish hens or chickens) 3 green onions, minced 2 tablespoons butter 1 pound lean ground turkey, chicken or veal 2 tablespoons minced parsley 4 juniper berries 1/8 teaspoon sage 1 small bay leaf, crumbled 3/4 cup white rice 2/3 cup raisins 2/3 cup pine nuts Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In butter saute green onion until soft. Add the ground turkey and break up with fork. Cook over low heat until meat colors. Stir in parsley, juniper, sage, bay leaf and rice with 1 cup boiling water. Cook, uncovered until all of the liquid is absorbed. Skim off fat as it rises to the surface. Cool misture slightly and stir in raisins and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool before stuffing bird. MEXICAN STUFFING WITH CHILES (Enough for 12- to 15-pound turkey or several chickens, ducks, Cornish hens) 4 slices nitrite-free bacon 3 pounds ground pork 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 cup tomato puree 1/2 cup coarsely chopped black olives 3/4 cup pine nuts 3 diced bananas 3 peeled, cored and diced apples 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers, to taste 3 medium carrots, diced 1/2 cup raisins 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Dice bacon and fry. Drain. Saute ground pork in its own fat. Add onion and continue sauteing until onion is soft. Drain off excess fat. Add tomato puree, olives, pine nuts, bananas, apples, chiles, carrots, raisins, vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon. If there is extra stuffing cook it separately in shallow, covered pan. Cool before stuffing bird. ITALIAN STUFFING WITH FRUITS AND NUTS (8- to 10-pound turkey or two chickens or two ducks, goose) 1/4 pound nitrite-free bacon, diced 6 tablespoons butter 18 fresh chestnuts, cooked and skimmed 8 ounces prunes, soaked, pitted and chopped 1/2 cup ground turkey, chicken or veal 3 apples, peeled, cored and cubed 3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cubed 12 walnut halves, chopped 5 tablespoons freshly grated Parmeasan cheese 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 2 eggs, lightly beaten Salt and pepper to taste
Saute bacon for about 3 minutes. Drain and mix with remaining ingredients.
FRENCH STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE (Enough for 15-pound turkey, several chickens or Cornish hens) Salt and pepper 2 shallots, minced 1 onion, chopped 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 pound mild sausage 1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs 1/2 cup hot chicken stock 2 pounds chestnuts, cooked and peeled, and diced or 3 cups canned, drained chestnuts 2 stalks celery, chopped 6 mushrooms, chopped 1 tablespoon minced parsley 1 teaspoon thyme Pinch allspice 1/4 cup brandy 2 tablespoons Madeira Saute shallots and onion in butter. Add sausage, break up with fork and cook until almost done; pour off excess fat. Moisten bread crumbs with chicken stock and add to sausage mixture. Add chestnuts, celery, mushrooms, parsley, thyme, allspice, brandy and Madeira. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well. Cool before stuffing bird. ARMENIAN STUFFING WITH BULGUR (Enough for 14- to 16-pound turkey or several chickens, Cornish hens, ducks) 1 cup butter 2 onions, chopped 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds 1 1/2 cups dried apricots 1 1/2 cups raisins 4 cups cooked bulgur 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cloves Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the butter in skillet. Saute the onions with the coriander and cumin in the butter until onions are soft. Add the almonds, apricots and raisins, and saute until almonds are golden; stir occasionally. Add the bulgur, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Cool before stuffing bird.