There are so many stuffings or dressings (what you call them seems to depend on where you come from) with which you can accent a holiday bird. However, I think that it is a good idea to master one and then vary it from time to time. Often I will make a different stuffing to accompany a roast chicken so that I can try it out on the family before serving it up with the big bird on the big day. A side bowl of stuffing always seems to add a festive touch to a Sunday dinner. This is a good basic stuffing to which you can add a variety of flavors (see note below).
12 cups dried white and/or wheat bread cubes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 cups diced dried apricots
1/2 cup yellow raisins
approximately 2 cups warm turkey stock, chicken broth or water
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Marjoram
kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1-1/2 cups toasted walnut or pecan pieces
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
If not stuffing a bird, lightly grease a large shallow baking dish or a large casserole. Set aside. Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and parsley. Lower the heat and sauté for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft but not browned. Add the apricots and raisins and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme and marjoram and cook for 3 minutes.
Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, tossing to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste and enough warm stock to make a moist but not wet mixture. Toss in the nuts.
Either use the mixture to stuff a bird (see note below) or place into the prepared baking dish or casserole and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is crusty and the stuffing is hot in the center.
NOTE: Corn bread, rye, pumpernickel or pumpernickel-raisin breads can be used with or in place of the white and whole wheat bread. Cooked rice, wild rice or other grains can replace all or part of the bread. You can replace the apricots and raisins with any other dried fruit - either a single fruit or a combination of fruits or chopped raw apples or pears. Any nut, including roasted chestnuts, can be used in place of the walnuts or pecans.
To this basic stuffing, you can add: 1 cup chopped cooked poultry livers, 1-1/2 cups crumbled cooked sausage meat or 1-1/2 cups raw oysters. If you use any of these, you might want to eliminate the fruit and nuts.
Never stuff poultry in advance of roasting because, even if refrigerated, bacteria can form quickly. For safety, always stuff poultry just before you are ready to roast it.