In my memories of Thanksgiving while growing up, the bird was always the focal point of the holiday.
With it’s large breast and bony little legs sticking up out of the huge metal roasting pan, preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner was a cherished ceremonious event.
The ritual began with bringing the turkey to room temperature, which was sometimes an ordeal in and of itself. Next step was preparing our traditional family recipe of oyster dressing and eventually spooning as much as possible into the cavity of the turkey.
Before the bird was ready for roasting, the final step was finding the needle and thread needed to sew it shut. Once it was ready to go, we carefully transferred the stuffed turkey into the oven to cook for what seemed like all day.
There was always a debate over when it would be done. I’ll never forget the twenty minutes per pound rule because it was repeated so many times over the years; besides, I was always good at math and remembering numbers.
This time-honored practice on Thanksgiving was almost like bowing to the buddha, the turkey ruled the day.
Not only was the bird revered, but the oyster stuffing was also up on the pedestal. Using fresh oysters and crushed oyster crackers mixed with some sautéed onion and fresh sage, it was my dad’s favorite recipe of all. He insisted we make it every year, a non-negotiable in our house.
I’m not sure if he really liked the dressing for its flavor or for the nostalgic aspect of making his family’s tried and true recipe. By the time the oyster dressing cooked for six or more hours inside the turkey, those originally slimy little guys, that kind of grossed me out, were finally edible to my young tongue.
Years later, when my dad purchased Bachman pretzels, and it became our family business, he insisted that we use Bachman sourdough hard pretzels for the stuffing. Being a perfectionist and gourmet cook, that drove my mom crazy. Whenever she entertained the idea of going back to oyster crackers, my dad quickly caught on and vehemently squashed her plans for rebellion.
Fast forward to today. Stuffing in my house needs to be gluten-free. So a few years ago I created a gluten-free stuffing that was to die for. Unfortunately I didn’t write down all the ingredients and am not sure I’ve actually recreated it exactly. But it’s pretty damn good.
So here’s the recipe, and thanks for listening to my Thanksgiving walk down memory lane. I am so grateful for you! Feel free to share your own Thanksgiving memories or recipes below – I’d love to hear from you:)
Sweet Potato and Sausage Stuffing
1 pound country-style ground sausage patties or meat (not in casing)
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
5 stalks celery, cut into thin slices
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 cup chesnuts, roughly chopped (buy them pre-cooked so you don’t have to deal with the shells – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Natural Food Stores will carry them )
1/4 cup golden raisins or chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup bone broth or chicken stock
1 sprig fresh sage leaves, 4-6 leaves
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, rosemary, coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 15-20 minutes, until just beginning to soften.
While sweet potato is cooking, add remaining oil into a large sauté pan. Add celery and onion. Cook for 5-8 minutes over medium high heat until onion is translucent and celery beginning to brown. Add sausage meat, breaking it up into smaller pieces the pan. Cook until browned and cooked through. Stir in wine and simmer over low heat until it evaporates, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer the sausage mixture to a large bowl and add the roasted sweet potatoes, raisins, sage, and chesnuts. Gently mix together.
Grease a large baking pan 9×13 with coconut oil pour in stuffing mixture. Bake covered for 20 minutes then uncover and bake for 20 minutes more.