One source of tension in my marriage revolves around the cultural differences between my and Seth’s families. You can’t tell by looking at me, or even speaking to me, but I am the daughter of immigrant parents. Both my mother and father were born in Cuba and came to the United States before I was born. Knowing they would never return to the island, they fully immersed themselves into American culture. They both speak fluent English (with no trace of anything other than a “Miami” accent, which my ears still cannot identify), they eat burgers, don’t leave eggs and rice out on the counter, they vote, and abide by traffic laws. They are American.
I was raised as a proud American and proud Cuban. I grilled burgers and roasted pigs over a fire in the backyard. For part of my life, I thought I had lost a lot of the Cuban culture and blamed my parents for assimilating too much. Until I became engaged and realized I was totally Cuban.
Back to the tension in my marriage. Understanding and accepting one another’s culture is difficult. A loving but confused, difficult, and not usually in an “I want to punch you in the face” kind of difficult. The cultural difference comes out mostly during the holidays. Thanksgiving to be exact.
One question in particular that we’ve debated vigorously, is what came first, Stove Top or stuffing? For me, I grew up with turkey soaked in mojo, shredded in a dish, rice and beans, plantains, and more things that just sound super strange in English. Seth grew up with weird looking baby pickles, olives, mashed potatoes, YAMS, asparagus, and the traditional dry turkey with cranberry sauce. Pretty sure my mother-in-law was ready to return me when I told her I had never had cranberry sauce.
When we moved to Utah, Seth was so homesick that I decided to make him his favorite Thanksgiving dish, stuffing. After he refused Stove Top, I searched high and low for a recipe and with a few minor tweaks, he now prefers mine over his mother’s (if you’re married, you know that is a HUGE deal).
Here’s how we make it rain tears of joy, guys.
First, bake the cornbread a few days ahead. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and let it dry. No need to bake from scratch (although you’re welcome to), I like Krusteaz Honey Cornbread or William Sonoma sells a mix fit for a king.
If you’re grocery store doesn’t sell dried bread, make sure that you purchase Ciabatta and french bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and dry in cookie sheets or trays either on the counter with a towel on top. If you don’t dry the bread ahead of time, you can cook it in the oven on 350 for 15-20 minutes (until hard) and you’re good to go- if you go this route for the cornbread, double its time in the oven (40-60 minutes) .
On Thanksgiving day (or even the day before) make the dressing. Chop up some celery, onion, a bunch of parsley and a bit of minced rosemary (do not combine). If you like carrots in your stuffing (I do not) add a few peeled finely diced carrots to the mix. Toss a large stick of butter into a skillet over medium-high heat and toss in all of that chopped celery and onion (and optional carrots), stirring regularly for 4-5 minutes.
When they begin to get soft (and the onions start to become pale), pour in the chicken broth and allow it to bubble. Add in your rosemary followed by dried basil, ground thyme, salt, and pepper. After mixing, add in the fresh parsley and let it fester for a few minutes to let the flavors mix, mingle, and marry.
While this happens, toss all the bread into the “big bowl”. Using a ladle, pour the broth over the bread, tossing the bread as you go. If you’re brave, you can add chopped bacon to this mix. Either way, bathe that bread with 2/3 of the broth. If you like your stuffing wet, dump it all in and let the bread bask in the glory of the sauce (tell me if at this point, the smell hasn’t transported you somewhere magical). I dump all that goodness in, all of the broth, ALL OF IT.
Once it’s as dry or wet as you want it, add salt and pepper to taste. Dump the bread mixture in, spread it around and add several slices of butter throughout the top (try the Irish Gold, it’s happy butter from happy cows, it tastes so happy).
Remember to set some aside for the turkey, and some for a secret stash so no one judges just how many carbs you’re downing in one day (no judgment here).
When you’re ready, bake this baby at 375 for 20-30 minutes. When it’s golden and slightly crispy on top, it’s reached it’s pinnacle of goodness.
Even I will never look at Stove Top the same again.
Here’s the condensed version:
- 1 loaf Cornbread
- 1 loaf Italian Bread, Ciabatta
- 1 loaf French Bread
- 1 whole Large Onion Or 2 Medium Onions, Diced
- 5 stalks Celery, Diced
- OPTIONAL 3 carrots, finely diced
- OPTIONAL bacon
- 1/2 bunch Parsley, Chopped
- 1/2 cup Butter (try Irish Gold)
- 6 cups Low-sodium Chicken Broth, More if you’d like to add extra moisture
- 1/2 teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Thyme
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, Finely Minced
- Salt And Pepper
Cut all the bread into 1-inch cubes and lay them out on sheet pans. Cover with a dish towel and let them dry out for 24-48 hours until they’re dry and crispy. As an alternative, dry it in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown (cornbread will take double the time).
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the broth, parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper and stir.
Put all the bread cubes in a large bowl and slowly ladle in the broth mixture, tossing as you go until the dressing has the moisture level you want. Taste and add more seasonings as needed.Pour the dressing into a large casserole pan and/or the turkey cavity. Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees until golden and crisp on top. Serve hot hot hot.
Thanks to Cynthia Jaen Photography for editing these photos.