Easy-Bake Herbed Stuffing
21⁄4 hours (30 minutes active)
Let’s face it, stuffing is basically a flavorful sponge to soak up gravy and any stray melting butter that escapes a vegetable. But mincing and sautéing the aromatics that help turn bland bread tasty is a chore. We speed things up – and maximize flavor – by giving butter, fresh herbs and raw shallots a whiz in the food processor, then using the resulting paste to season bread cubes while they toast in the oven. We found that any sturdy, high-quality sliced sandwich bread from the grocer worked well here. As the bread bakes, the raw bite of the shallots cooks off, leaving behind a mellow tang. Chopped celery is tossed with melted butter and mixed into the bread, softening as the cubes toast. The mixture then is moistened with chicken broth and a touch of cream before being baked to create a relatively carefree stuffing that will satisfy the even strictest traditionalists.
Don’t use regular chicken broth. Make sure to use low-sodium, otherwise you’ll end up with an oversalted stuffing. Of course, homemade chicken or turkey stock is even better.
1 cup finely chopped celery
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted
8 ounces shallots, peeled
1⁄3 cup lightly packed fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons lightly packed thyme leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
11⁄2 pounds sturdy white sandwich bread, cut into 3⁄4-inch cubes
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat the oven to 325°F with racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions. In a bowl, toss the celery with 1 tablespoon of the butter; set aside. In a food processor, combine the shallots, sage, thyme, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and remaining butter. Process to form a smooth paste, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed.
In a large bowl, combine the bread and shallot-herb paste, tossing gently.
2. Fold in the celery, then divide the mixture between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the celery is tender and bread is crisp and golden, 50 to 60 minutes, stirring the bread and switching and rotating the pans halfway through. Let cool slightly. At this stage the bread mixture can be cooled, bagged and stored for a day. When ready to proceed, increase the oven temperature to 400°F.
3. Transfer the bread mixture to a large bowl, scraping any browned bits off the sheet pans. Fold in the broth, cream, and parsley; let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Transfer to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Bake on the upper middle rack until well browned on top, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
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PHOTO CREDITS: CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL’S MILK STREET