Thanksgiving is a big deal at the Cabrera residence. The menu is planned weeks in advance to make sure everyone is satisfied with the side dishes and desserts. My mom takes out her good silverware to be polished. My dad spends the days prior to the dinner cleaning the house and making the backyard look pretty. And somewhere my brother is running and working out to ensure he can feast to his heart’s content.
Over the years, through trial and error, we’ve finally got the prep work for Thanksgiving dinner down to a choreographed dance.
My mom and I used to fight over the oven. She needs it to cook the turkey, while I need it to bake my pies and tarts. And let’s not forget all the side dishes that either need to be cooked or reheated in the oven as well.
There will be no quarreling this year. I found this amazing slow cooker stuffing recipe to give more oven room to our giant turkey. I have also learned to make all my desserts the night before. I’ve given my mom all reigns to the oven, since it’s her kitchen after all.
I plan on making this stuffing around lunchtime, giving me plenty of time to relax and enjoy the company before Thanksgiving dinner. Not only is it super simple and easy to make- it smells wonderful as it cooks. It fills the house with the most savory appetizing aroma ever. Everyone will be seated around the dining table before you can even round them up.
*note: I use breakfast sausage in this recipe instead of the traditional Italian sausage. I have dinner guests that are not fond of the fennel flavor found in Italian sausage. Also, I buy a lot of breakfast sausage so I’ll have plenty to cook up for breakfast the following morning to serve to the all the overnight guests.
Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Stuffing, serves 5-6, double as needed
1 pound good-quality white sandwich bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
8 oz breakfast sausage, removed from casing
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cups celery ribs, split down the middle and chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dried sage)
1 1/2 cup reduced (low) sodium chicken broth
1 large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
chopped chives, thyme, and sage, as garnish
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place cut bread on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bread is stale and dried out. Toss bread midway through baking to ensure even cooking. Alternatively, cut bread ahead of time and leave out on counter for a day or two to dry out. Place bread in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Grab a long piece of foil. Fold it a couple of time over itself to create a band. Line the sides of the slow cooker pot with the foil. Lightly coat with nonstick spray.
3. In a large skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp of oil. Add breakfast sausage (removed from casing). Cook until sausage is brown and cooked throughout. As sausage is cooking, break into small chunks using a wooden spoon. Drain cooked sausage and add to bread. Keep all the browned bits in the pan.
4. Using the same pan you cooked sausage in, add butter and set over medium heat.
5.Once butter has melted add onions and celery. Cook until onions have softened. Add chopped thyme and sage. Toss to combine and cook until herbs are aromatic. Add about 1/3 cup of chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the browned bits of sausage on the bottom of the pan. Cook until broth comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour mixture on top of bread-sausage mixture.
5. In another bowl, whisk together remaining chicken broth, egg, and salt and pepper. Pour over bread mixture and gently toss to combine. Make sure all the bread pieces are coated.
6. Transfer mixture to prepared slow cooker pot. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on low setting. Make sure mixture has reached temperature of at least 165 degrees F to ensure egg is cooked. Turn off slow cooker and remove foil. Transfer stuffing to serving dish. Garnish with additional herbs.
*note: The foil ring is supposed to prevent the sides of slow cooker from burning the stuffing. Depending on how hot your slow cooker gets, you may want to also line the bottom of the slow cooker pot with foil to prevent burning. ( I did not line the bottom the pot, and I had minimal burning.)
[recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution]