This recipe hails from my Grandma Schmidt in Austin, Minnesota. It is one of my favorite family recipes. I have very fond memories of making this dressing every Thanksgiving with my dad. Traditionally, we always stuffed the bird which is not exactly a safe way of cooking it…but it always came out very moist. We also used to bake the dressing, which is equally as good just a bit more toasty, but that is not a bad thing…perfect for piling the gravy on!
For the past few years I have been hosting my own Thanksgiving and inviting all my friends who like to taste test for me. The more people I invited, the smaller my one oven became! Inspired by Stephanie O’Dea and her “ Year of Slow Cooking Blog “, I thought…why not? So last year, I made EVERYTHING (mashed potatoes, sage dressing, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, candied yams) but the turkey in a Crock-Pot (separate Crock-Pots) and it worked out GREAT! I cooked all day the day before; making all of the sides, then put each one in a Crock-Pot (the night time temperature was in the low 30’s, so I left all of the Crock-Pots on the patio table overnight…but made sure to retrieve them by 7 am to start warming in the heating vessel…if you live in a warmer climate, DO NOT do this!). For the first time I can remember, I was actually able to watch football and hang out with my friends while everything was warming up in the Crock-Pots and the turkey was roasting in the oven.
The original recipe with my GF tweaks in red.
1 Loaf of White Bread, dried out (I use 2 loaves of Ener-G’s Light Tapioca Loaf…the naturally dry texture of this bread soaks up the liquid VERY well and without breaking down to a gritty texture).
1 1/2 cups diced Celery
1 cup diced Onion
1/2 cup Butter (I used Smart Balance)
1 Tbs. Rubbed Sage
Dry out bread (growing up we would lay the fresh bread on cookie sheets and allow to air dry over several days). Now, I use a faster method and put the bread on cookie sheets and stick them in the oven at 250° F for about an hour or so (I use a convection oven). I just keep checking it until the bread is hard but not burnt.
Break up bread into small pieces or feel free to cube it…I am just too impatient for this method!
Saute celery and onion in butter until tender.
Add sage to celery, onion and butter mixture, stir to incorporate (this is when Emeril would say, “I wish you had smell-a-vision”…or in this case, “smell-a-puter!” Okay, I think I need some sleep.)
Add sauteed vegetables and sage to bread pieces; mix well.
Turn into a well greased 2 qt. baking dish (or Crock-Pot)
Add some chicken broth to slightly moisten…this has always been an “eyeball it” thing for me so I do not have an exact measurement. When I bake the dressing in the oven, I add more chicken broth since it is the dry method of cooking the dressing. When we used to “stuff the bird,” we would not use any broth because the turkey juices drip into the dressing. For the Crock-Pot method, even though it is a moist method of cooking…you need to add the moisture! You must use liquid in a Crock-Pot or you will have a mess on your hands. For 2 loaves of Ener-G bread, I start with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth then add more if it looks like the liquid has evaporated.
Dot with butter
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or if you use a Crock-Pot, I set to low for 3 – 4 hours, depending on how much bread you use, then switch it to the warm setting until serving time.