I love Thanksgiving – in Canada, it’s when fall really gets into swing! The leaves are changing colour, there’s a crispness in the air and all of the harvest flavours are in season. What’s not to love?
The other thing I really love about Thanksgiving is how I can bring my loved ones together and show my appreciation for them by cooking a gigantic meal. I take Thanksgiving as the time to try new recipes, to stretch myself and to really try and impress and please people with my culinary efforts. I want the Thanksgiving table covered with fancy dishes, above and beyond the effort I would put into any regular meal. This may seem silly to some people, but if I can go the extra mile for my family and loved ones, what better way to show my thanks?
Creating My Stuffing Recipe
If you read my preview, you’ll know that I had an idea for the stuffing I wanted to make but hadn’t quite found the perfect recipe. I found those six recipes, read them, compared them to a bunch more recipes, and found what elements I wanted to keep and what could get ignored. Finally, I wrote it out, edited and revised the ingredients and the steps, and came up with my ideal stuffing recipe.
There were certain things that I knew for sure I wanted from my stuffing recipe:
- It needed to be cooked in the slow cooker. I don’t like turkey – this year we opted for a beef roast – so I had nothing to stuff. I also didn’t want to sacrifice oven space and am always looking for alternative cooking methods when making these giant meals.
- The stuffing needed to take advantage of the sausage drippings. Again, with no bird to stuff, I didn’t want the stuffing to dry out. Plus, I like the stuffing to be inherently tied to the rest of the earthy, hearty flavours presented in a Thanksgiving dinner. While using chicken broth absolutely helps that along, the sausage drippings are another great burst of moisture and flavour.
- I wanted apples in there, but I didn’t want it to taste like apple pie. Some of those herbs and spices wouldn’t hurt, but again, I was going for earthy, savoury flavour.
- There needed to be a “building” of flavours, not just “okay, it’s stuffing.” Confession time: I don’t like stuffing, UNLESS it’s this recipe or a similar one. Trust me when I say it needed to be different than your average
Sausage & Apple Stuffing Recipe
Now, without further ado, my newly-created stuffing recipe:
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium or large onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, trimmed and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage, casing removed
- 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
- 1 Red Delicious apple, chopped
- 1 Golden Delicious apple, chopped
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or to taste)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (or to taste)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (or to taste)
- 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup apple cider (plus more if too dry)
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (plus more if too dry)
- 1 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
- 3 cups stove-top stuffing mix
- 3 cups cornbread stuffing mix (or just more stove-top stuffing if you can’t find cornbread)
- 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
Heat olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion, celery and garlic until they start to soften. Crumble sausage into pan, breaking apart with a spoon. Cook until no longer pink, 5 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, remove and reserve sausage. Add apples, parley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves to drippings in skillet. Saute over medium heat until apples are soft, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
Add sausage back into the mixture. Add apple cider, broth, nutmeg, 1/3 cup butter, salt and pepper. Heat through, about 3 minutes.
[The apples turned out really soft this way. This is how I’m going to do it next time: Cook sausages as previously directed (and break apart into smaller pieces). DO NOT remove anything from pan. Add apples and herbs; toss to mix. Add the apple cider, broth, nutmeg, 1/3 cup butter, salt and pepper. Heat through as directed, then remove bay leaves.]
In a large slow cooker (ours was 6-quart), combine the two stuffing mixes. Pour apple and sausage mixture over stuffing and stir gently to moisten. Mix eggs in well.
Cook on low for about 4-5 hours. [Stir a few times. I didn’t, and some of the bread pieces were very soft and moist and others were still quite crisp.]