In the fall, there is nothing more quintessential that Classic Herb Stuffing with Wild Rice, Apples & Cranberries. With deep Minnesota and Wisconsin heritage, we grew up with apple orchards, northern wild rice and wild cranberry bogs, and all are incorporated into many of our family recipes.
To say that our families are very particular about herb stuffing for Thanksgiving feasts is an understatement - our family recipe has been tweaked until it is perfect. And an accidental discovery and secret ingredient makes this Herb Stuffing the absolute best in the world - even people that don't like stuffing gobble this stuff up!
I start by ordering freshly baked herb-seasoned bread from our local market bakery - they actually make this to order during the holiday months. With fresh herbs baked right into the grained bread, it also is pretty wonderful sliced up for leftover turkey sandwiches shmeared with cranberry-raspberry relish, so I order extra loaves. If you can't get your hands on seasoned bakery bread, you can also use a combination of multi-grain, wheat, white, rye, pumpernickel or sour dough bread. The night before, I tear the bread into nice chunks and bake it in the oven until it is completely dried out - this creates lots of nooks and crannies to hold all of your buttery herbs.
I add tender onions, celery and apples that are sautéed in butter until tender, and fresh sage, thyme and parsley. The herbs that I gather from our garden for our Thanksgiving dinner are usually the last of the season, so its always a little bit sad!
And then there was the time that I ran out of chicken broth and there was no time to run to the store for more. In a moment of pure panic, I decided to substitute a can of savory chunky chicken & wild rice soup. I pulled out the 5 or 6 pieces of potato that were in the can, and basically just added everything else to the little bit of chicken broth that I had. Tender bits of chicken, celery and carrots, and identical seasonings to what I was using in my herb stuffing only added to the flavor and texture, and a new favorite was born. Don't you just love it when a challenge turns into something wonderful?
This is one of those rare stuffing recipes that doesn't have any eggs in it, and you don't need to add any salt at all, so that is an added bonus! The butter, broth and soup create enough flavor and moisture to hold everything together without being soggy. Truly the best texture ever, with a lightly toasted top. The color, flavor and seasoning make this the best Herb Stuffing you will ever have!
Hope that your family loves this as much as we do!
10 cups fresh whole grain stuffing bread (torn into bite-sized chunks or cubed)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion (chopped)
1 cup (about 3 stalks) celery (sliced)
¾ teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional – but really ramps up the flavor!)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or leaves from about 3 stalks fresh thyme)
1 teaspoon dried sage (or about 2 Tbsp chopped fresh)
2 teaspoons dried parsley (or about 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh)
1 can Campbell’s Savory Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced granny smith apples (about 2 medium)
2/3 cup dried cranberries
HOW I MAKE THIS:
1. The night before you intend to serve, preheat oven to 250°F. Spread bread chunks out on two large baking pans and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, turning occasionally so that entire mixture is dry. Remove from oven, put in a large bowl, cover with foil and set aside until the next day.
2. Place butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, apple pieces, poultry seasoning and pepper. Sauté for about 6 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add thyme, sage, and parsley. Continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the apples. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, until apple pieces are tender.
3. Remove from heat and stir the mixture in with the dried bread. Remove any potato chunks from the soup (there are usually about 5 or 6 in each can). Heat the soup and chicken broth until hot, and pour a third of the hot mixture on top of the bread mixture, combining gently. Add next 1/3 of hot soup/broth and stir gently. Add final third of hot soup/broth and the craisins and fold everything together gently.
4. If using to stuff a turkey, allow to cool completely before stuffing. If baking the stuffing separately, heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan or 3 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray. Spoon stuffing into the dish, then bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp on top. Cover with foil during last 15 minutes if you don’t like it crispy on top. Garnish with fresh herbs before serving, if desired. Serve warm.
5. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave.
YIELD: 10-12 servings
Originally posted November 2010, revised and reposted November 2018 & 2019.
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