Making the stuffing is my favorite part of preparing the turkey. I pick my fresh-killed free-range organic turkey up from a local poultry farmer at the Thursday morning market in the small town in Northern Provence where I live. I also buy the ingredients to add to the stuffing, which is made of several types of bread I have been letting harden for a of couple of days. I add sautéed wild mushrooms, farm-made sausages, celery, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs with lots of parsley, mix them into the bread with my hands in a large earthenware bowl that belonged to my grandmother and add yogurt, raw eggs, dried cranberries, walnuts and anything else that may have tempted my fancy at that morning's market. Then I stuff the inside of the bird and add the stuffing under the skin and between the flesh. This flavors the meat and keeps it moist. I soak a large piece of cheesecloth into clarified butter mixed with Madeira and wrap the bird in that, keeping it moist and ensuring the skin browns evenly and well without having to baste the turkey often at all. That's my stuffing--and it's always stuffing, never dressing.
Oh, yum. I was always a mad baster. A few years ago, I decided not to be a slave to basting and did the cheesecloth trick. I actually got to take a bath while the turkey roasted.
Do your French friends enjoy celebrating an American holiday, or is the meal for nostalgic ex-pats?
No ex-pats--just French and other Europeans who live here. They LOVE it!
Unbeknown to me until now, there's no difference between stuffing and dressing, although I thought stuffing is what you stuff the bird with and call mine a dressing because I serve it on the side. But, I'm not from here so what do I know? I only know that stuffing inside the bird is gross. LOL. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in my home country of Bosnia but the bird was always on the table for Christmas and mom has just the trick how to keep the skin crispy and meat juicy. Since I moved here, I've made several different recipe for turkey: from smoking, grilling, soaking in brine to stuffing it with duck and chicken, aka Turducken, but I found my mom's simple recipe the best. Her secret is to stuff the cavity with a whole lemon and an onion studded with whole cloves. It keeps the bird juicy and gives it a wonderful flavor at the same time. As for the outside, I rinse it with hot water and pat dry (makes the skin extra crispy) and season with a simple mixture of my favorite spices: salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Happy Thanksgivig!
Excellent Mom trick--really, is there anything that isn't made better with lemon?
There's been a swath of recent articles claiming that the difference between stuffing and dressing isn't about whether it's cooked inside the turkey or in a casserole--it's more of a regional difference: In the North, it's almost always known as stuffing; in the South, it's almost always dressing.
So often we hear about the special significance of a classic American holiday for families who immigrated to the US looking for a better life. Makes for a truly thankful Thanksgiving.