With Christmas fast approaching, Great Outdoors columnist James Murray’s thoughts turn to the gifts that got away and preparing a turkey dinner. (File photo)

Column: Pondering the gift that got away and turkey stuffing

The Great Outdoors/James Murray

There is a wonderful, childlike sense of excitement and anticipation that is connected to the coming of Christmas day –especially Christmas morning.

What child hasn’t looked forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning with great expectation? As a kid, I just couldn’t wait for Christmas morning.

I remember the year my father got up in the middle of the night on Christmas eve and spent hours making us kids a skating rink. I especially remember the year that I got a steel casting rod and Shakespeare reel.

I still have both that rod and reel. A few years back they were part of my collection of vintage fishing gear that was on display at the museum.

I also remember the year that I wanted a Daisy Spitin’ Image BB gun so much I could taste it. No kid ever wished for or anticipated anything as much as I did that BB gun. I never got it though. Part of me identifies with Ralphie Parker in the movie A Christmas Story, about a kid who wants a Red Rider BB gun. Let’s just say it’s still a bit of a sore spot – no pun intended – even after all these years.

Related: Column: Drawn to the spirit of giving

Over the years since, my focus has slowly but surely turned more towards anticipation of Christmas dinner. Few things in life appeal to me more than roast turkey with creamy mashed potatoes, candied carrots, golden waxed beans, wild rice stuffing, home-made cranberry sauce and real gravy made in the roaster from the turkey drippings.

Yes, I was disappointed when I didn’t get that BB gun so long ago, but I also remember how my spirits were lifted later in the day by the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven.

I have cooked a fair number of turkey dinners in my day. It’s not all that hard if you pay attention to what you’re doing.

However my real specialty is making the stuffing. So I offer this simple recipe.

Start with about six cups of large bread crumbs and one cup of fine bread crumbs. I make my own bread crumbs by drying out bread in the oven. This can be done a day or two ahead of time. I also prepare my wild rice a day or two ahead of time – about a cup of wild rice in the steamer which I then put it in the fridge until I’m ready.

When the time comes to make the stuffing, I start by chopping up three or four stalks of celery which have been quartered length-wise and placed in a pot to boil in water.

Next I fry up about a dozen medium sized brown mushrooms in butter.

When about three-quarters cooked they are set aside in a bowl. When the celery is cooked enough to be soft but not mushy, it too is placed in a bowl. Do not pour out the water. It is used as a base for the liquids. Add two or three generous globs of butter (one glob equals about two table spoons) to the celery water and let simmer at a low heat until the butter is melted.

I like to add about half a cup of turkey drippings to the simmering liquids. I then add about three or four finely chopped dried apricots. Once the apricots are mixed in, I add the celery back into the liquid, along with about half a white onion, very finely chopped.

It is now time to thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. First the bread crumbs, to which is added the wild rice, mushrooms and two eggs whisked. Then I add the spices. I use sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper. The amount of each is strictly a matter of taste, but too much sage or thyme is too much, whereas not quite enough isn’t the end of the world.

Slowly mix in the liquid until the bread crumbs are damp. Too much liquid will turn your ingredients into one big ball of gooey dough. Once everything is mixed together, you can stuff some into your turkey and/or place it into a covered casserole dish and put it in the oven for an hour or so. Do not remove the lid until you are ready to serve it in an appropriate-sized bowl with either.

This simple but delectable stuffing will definitely compliment any Christmas dinner.


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