Are you going traditional all the way this year or are you tweaking the extras to make the big dinner a little more interesting?
If your family would rebel if you cooked anything but turkey, maybe you could dress it just differently enough to satisfy that urge to try something new.
I've got a few suggestions to perk up the holiday table while still making a perfect accompaniment to the usual potful of root vegetables and gallon of gravy.
Just a word to the wise - don't stuff the turkey so tightly that the breast turns to powder before the internal temperature is high enough to make the dressing safe. Roll a couple of handfuls in and around the cavity and put the rest in a covered baking dish. Pop it in the oven as the bird comes out and it will be done by the time you and turkey are rested enough to carve. Each of these recipes makes plenty for a crowd, with some left over.
Traditional Newfoundland and Labrador dressing
I am starting here just in case you are new to hosting the family feast and have more fear than desire to innovate.
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup dried savory
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (optional)
2 loaves thinly sliced white sandwich bread, cut into small cubes
1 large bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
Fry onion in butter until soft. Add savory and cook another minute. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and ginger. Stir in bread and parsley and combine thoroughly to coat the bread completely with the onion and herb mixture. Taste now. You want it at least as seasoned as you would serve it at the table; if it's not, add a little more salt.
Cool completely or refrigerate up to overnight. Sprinkle chicken broth over the top and toss to combine. Stuff the bird or bake separately in a covered dish at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes or until steaming hot. Remove the cover halfway through if you like crispy bits.
Sausage hazelnut dressing
Oh boy, is this delicious, and equally or even more so the next day on turkey sandwiches. If you can't get some of the fresh herbs, substitute 1/3 the amount of dried. Use up to half whole grain bread or cornbread for a completely different taste.
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried savory
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. each chopped fresh thyme and oregano
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
6 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1 cup golden raisins, soaked a few minutes in a little hot water or wine
1-1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted
10 to 12 cups day-old bread cubes - hearty Italian or French bread is best
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry Marsala (or another wine you like)
Fry celery in olive oil until starting to soften. Add onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and savory and cook another minute. Stir in parsley, sage, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and scrape into a bowl; set aside. Add sausage to the same pan and cook through, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Discard any fat. Combine onion and herb mixture with sausage, raisins, hazelnuts, bread, butter, chicken broth and Marsala. Mix well and pour into a large, greased baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until piping hot. Remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to crisp.
Cranberry rice dressing
If your family isn't fond of bread-based dressing, then try this delicious departure. I don't care for leftover potatoes, so this makes a perfect second-day side dish as far as I'm concerned. Make 1/4 to 1/2 this amount for a delicious chicken dinner any time of year.
1 large stalk celery, minced
1 large onion, minced
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 tsp. each dried oregano, sage and savory
1/2 tsp. allspice
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen-and-thawed cranberries
6 cups cooked wild rice or mixed rice medley
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
Fry celery and onion in butter until soft but not brown. Stir in oregano, sage, savory and allspice and cook together until fragrant; cool slightly. Coarsely chop cranberries - a few pulses in the food processor is the quickest way - then add to cooked mixture. Stir in rice, honey, salt and pepper. Cool completely before putting a small amount in the bird for flavour. Bake the rest in a covered casserole dish at 350 F for about half an hour.
This rich, flavourful mixture will dress a roast of pork or beef as beautifully as your holiday turkey.
3 medium onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup butter
2 to 3 tbsp. savory
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
8 to 10 cups dry bread, cubed
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp. each fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, finely chopped
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper
Fry onions, celery and mushrooms in butter until golden. Stir in savory and poultry seasoning and cook another minute or two. In a large bowl, add mushroom mixture and remaining ingredients to bread and toss to moisten. Bake in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish at 325 F for 40 minutes, covered for soft dressing or uncovered about halfway through for crusty.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.