This is a recipe, like so many other great Thanksgiving recipes, that is semi-homemade. The stuffing cubes we use have traditionally been Arnold’s, a brand very familiar to New Yorkers, but the best part about this recipe is how adaptable it is. Feel free to use baked fresh bread, stale leftover sliced bread, or any other combination you like. You can also decide whether you want to use the stuffing in the turkey itself or on the side: we make enough to do both, and then some. But as you adapt, be prepared: like any Thanksgiving recipe, this one can be the source of drama. One time in the early 90s -- one time -- I tried adding raisins to the recipe and I still get complaints every year.
3 14-oz bags of stuffing or equivalent in fresh bread, roughly 2-3 large loaves
2 cups/600ml filtered water
2 cups/600ml fresh-squeezed orange juice, no pulp
4 large or 6 medium sausages. Meat alternatives work, but not tofu because of the texture). You can go medium spicy, but mild sausage works best.
4 sticks salted butter
6 large celery stalks, diced
2 extra-large yellow onions (ideally Vidalia, but any sweet onion will do)
3 large green apples, diced but skin-on
1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp thyme, and extra to taste
Any other aromatics or flavourings you wish
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Heat the butter to slowly melt.
Use a small amount of the butter to grease a large pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until they begin to soften, and then add the celery. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme, as well as any other aromatics (garlic, etc.) Mind that the orange juice and apples will only go well with less assertive flavourings, so lots of cayenne or cumin would overwhelm the recipe. Cook both until the onions are translucent and the celery has softened as well.
Uncase the sausage (if necessary) and add to the onions and celery over medium or medium-low heat. Do not sear or overcook -- you want them to be undercooked before they go in the oven. This will require you to inform passing family members that they are not allowed to eat any of the stuffing, which is not going to work, but you have to say it anyway.
Remove the sausage, onions, and celery, and mix into a large bowl with the stuffing bread, the apples, and the butter. Stir to incorporate, slowly adding the orange juice and the water in batches until fully incorporated. The final product should be like a dry dough (if using store-bought stuffing) or uncooked bread pudding (for fresh bread).
Place in the oven for 40 minutes at 350F/175C/160C Fan. If you’re putting some of the stuffing in the turkey, don’t overstuff, and add more cooking time to ensure full cooking.
Remove from the oven and serve hot.