Brining and Stuffing the Turkey: Apple, Pecan and Sage Stuffing

Thanksgiving is one of our family’s favorite holidays. We are thankful that our children, their spouses and our grandson are coming here for the traditional turkey dinner. Over the years I have attempted to change one of the side dishes for something new, but I always get the same response: “Don’t change anything; we love the menu just the way it is.”

One new thing I did try several years ago was to brine the turkey. It produced a much more succulent bird so I continue to brine it every year. I order a fresh turkey from Harrison’s Poultry Farm in Glenview and pick it up the day before.

Here is the simple brine recipe I use:

Mix 1-1/2 gallons of cold water with 1 cup Kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar in a Coleman cooler or ice chest large enough to hold the turkey. Rinse the turkey (discard the liver and save the neck, heart and giblets to make turkey stock if you like) and submerge the 12 to 16 pound turkey in the brine. If needed, pour in more water to cover. Top with ice blocks or ice cubes, cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

An hour before roasting, discard the brine and rinse turkey well with cold water. One important note: after roasting the bird, if you will be making gravy from the drippings and carving juices, taste the gravy before adding any salt as the drippings will be slightly salty.

The following stuffing recipe is a version of one I developed for Winnetka resident and one of my favorite clients, George Bay, for his third generation company, Bays English Muffins. I am not a fan of putting the stuffing inside the turkey as the turkey takes longer to bake and the stuffing gets soggy. I prefer to bake it in a casserole dish where it develops a delicious crust.

Apple, Pecan and Sage Stuffing
Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 small red apple, unpeeled and chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups chicken or turkey stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 6 split English muffins, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery; sauté 5 minutes. Add apple; sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables and apple are tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter; cool 5 minutes. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in broth, sage, salt and pepper. Stir in vegetables, butter and pecans. Stir in English muffin cubes; mix well.

3. Transfer to a buttered 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: This recipe is easily doubled and baked in two separate baking dishes.

 

Karen Levin is a freelance recipe developer living in Highland Park with her husband of 36 years.