Making bread cubes ahead of time gives you a head start on this Thanksgiving side dish. Use good bread for the best flavor and texture – we recommend Como, but whole wheat or even brioche will work. We love this classic recipe, but you can go lots of directions with the variations listed below.
Makes about 7 cups
8-10 cups of dried bread cubes (see note), from a 1 pound country-style loaf (such as Como)
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced celery
1 3/4 cups diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh sage and fresh thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon each dried sage and marjoram)
1-2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth, divided
2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Prepare dried bread cubes as directed in Note below (up to three days ahead of time)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9-by-13-by-2 inch rectangular baking dish or 2-quart casserole dish.
Melt butter in a large skillet; add celery and onions; sauté slowly until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add parsley, sage, thyme, poultry seasoning, and 1 cup of the broth to the sautéed vegetables; stir to combine.
Combine bread cubes with vegetable mixture and optional pecans. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 to 1 cup additional broth and place in prepared baking dish. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until hot; uncover and bake for additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.
NOTE: To make dried bread cubes, slice into 3/4 inch cubes and let air dry overnight, or dry in single layer on sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. Stir a few times while baking for even drying. Let cool completely and store in a paper bag or bowl covered with a tea towel for several days before using.
With Figs and Prosciutto – Use only one cup of chicken broth. Add only 1 cup of toasted pecans along with 1 cup of Madeira wine, 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto and 1/2 pound chopped dried figs.
With Oysters, Water Chestnuts and Tarragon – Omit pecans and sage. Substitute 1 cup slightly sauteed small oysters, 1 cup of sliced water chestnuts and 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon (1 teaspoon dried).
With Sausage and Wild Mushrooms – Omit pecans. Add 1 cup of browned sausage meat and 1 cup sauteed mushrooms (such as chanterelles) or reconstituted dried porcini. If wild mushrooms aren’t available, try cremini, although you may want to double the amount.
With Fresh Fennel and Leeks – Substitute a large, fresh fennel bulb for the celery and two large leeks for the yellow onion. Omit the sage and substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel tops. Peel and cut the fennel bulb into julienne strips. Clean leeks and cut into coins. Saute leeks and fennel and proceed as above. If desired, subsitute white wine for part of broth.