There is a wonderful, childlike sense of anticipation connected to Christmas. After all, it is the season of giving, and what child doesn’t look forward to Christmas morning with a certain amount of anticipation, if not expectation.
I was certainly no different as a child. I remember wanting a Daisy Spittin’ Image Winchester Model 94 BB gun so bad I could taste it. I never got it. After that, my focus sort of turned to anticipation of Christmas dinner. Little has changed.
Few things in life appeal to me more than roast turkey with creamy mashed potatoes, candied carrots, golden waxed beans, wild rice stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce – not the stuff from a can – and real gravy made in the roaster from the turkey drippings.
I admit, I was sort of disappointed when I didn’t get the BB gun, but I do remember how my spirits were soon lifted by the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven.
While I have never actually cooked a turkey by myself, I have helped out in the process of preparing Christmas dinner.
My specialty has become making the stuffing. This has come about in part by people letting me help out in some small way, while trying to keep me out of the way at the same time. Be that as it may, I still make a pretty good stuffing.
A proper stuffing recipe comes about, in large part through trial and error. Not all of my attempts at making the stuffing have been noteworthy. So I offer this simple recipe more as a basic guideline.
Stuffing, and therefore the specific amounts of ingredients, will vary according to the size of the bird and personal taste.
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 Blue Canoe 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 my stuffing, I start by chopping up three or four stalks of celery that have been halved length-wise and placed in a pot to boil in water. Next, I fry up about a dozen medium-sized mushrooms in butter. When 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 the perfect liquid for the gravy. Add two or three generous globs of butter (one glob equals about two tablespoons) to the celery water and let simmer at a low heat until melted. I like to add about half a cup of turkey drippings to the simmering liquids. I then add about three finely chopped dried apricots. Once the apricots are soft, I add the celery back into the liquid, adding about half of a very finely chopped onion.
It is now time to thoroughly mix all the ingredients into a large bowl. First the bread crumbs, to which is added the wild rice, diced mushrooms and two eggs whisked.
Then I add the spices. I use sage, salt and pepper – that’s all. The amount is strictly a matter of taste, but too much sage is too much, where not quite enough isn’t the end of the world.
Slowly mix in the liquid until the bread crumbs are damp. Too much liquid and the stuffing will turn into one big ball of spicy dough.
Once everything is mixed together, put the stuffing into the bird or a covered casserole dish and bake it in the oven for an hour or so before serving. It is a simple to prepare but tasty stuffing – even for a guy like me.