Traditional stuffing casserole is made with crusty sourdough bread and seasoned with pork sausage, leeks and herbs.
I have discovered that there are two schools when it comes to stuffing — or dressing. Whatever you prefer to call it.
Having parents that were raised north of the Mason Dixon line, I grew up on conventional cubed bread stuffing. Or as my husband likes to call it – soggy bread stuffing.
He was raised on his grandmother’s cornbread dressing. I have learned to make room in my heart for it because it has a permanent spot on the buffet at family holiday gatherings. However, this is my blog and I do all the cooking around here. Sorry, honey.
My first Thanksgiving as a newlywed, I volunteered to host my parents for dinner in our apartment. I wanted to impress them with my culinary and hostess abilities, so I spent weeks planning the menu. This recipe started by mixing together the best parts of two different stuffing recipes. After moving three times in two years, my original recipe was lost and I had to feel my way around recreating this dish.
The Best Bread for Making Stuffing
There are a million different bread varieties out there that you could use in this recipe. It’s all about the texture you prefer. I don’t like my stuffing to have the texture of mashed potatoes, so I opted for a more rustic sourdough that will hold its shape while absorbing all the flavors I add to it.
I chose sourdough sandwich bread rather than a boule just because I was concerned the thick crust of a boule would prevent the bread from cooking down and absorbing the broth. You can also use Italian or French bread.
Bread that has been dried out a little holds its shape better than fresh bread. A day before preparing the stuffing casserole, cut the bread into cubes and let it dry out on the counter overnight. If you are short on time, you can also roast the bread at 275 degrees for 10 minutes. Just let it cool before assembling the stuffing casserole.
More Prep Before You Get Started
You’ll also need to chop one large leek. Leeks look like giant green onions. In fact, they are part of the same family. Leeks don’t have quite as strong an onion flavor as green onions. They also hold up better to longer cooking times.
Two important things to remember when cooking with leeks. First, only use the white and light green part of the plant. Obviously, you want to cut off the tip with the roots.
Now look closely up the stalk and you’ll see where the stalk goes from white, to light green and then starts breaking off into dark green leaves. Cut right before the stem breaks off into the leaves. The dark green parts are too tough to eat. But they do make good seasoning for chicken stock!
Second, be sure to wash your leeks thoroughly. As you start cutting your white and light green parts into rings you’ll notice sand and grit embedded in between the layers. You want to rinse all that stuff out before your add it to the dish.
How to Make Sourdough and Sausage Thanksgiving Stuffing Casserole
Now that we have our prep out of the way, we are ready to get started!
Step one. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Step two. Cook 1/2 pound cooked pork roll sausage. This is basically the breakfast sausage that comes in the tube. I like to use sage flavored pork sausage for this dish, but you could also use plain or spicy. Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink, then use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan. Don’t drain the grease!
Step three. Add your cleaned and chopped leeks to the pan. Saute them until the start to turn soft, about 10 minutes.
Step four. Dump your cubed bread into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked leeks and sausage. Then add some dried thyme, Italian seasoning, paprika and ground black pepper. Pour chicken stock over everything.
Step five. Mix everything together until the bread is nice and moist. You can use a spoon, but I find my hands work better.
Step six. At this point, you can use this to stuff inside a bird. Just keep in mind that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook than an unstuffed bird. I prefer to pour everything into a greased 8 x 8 casserole dish and serve my stuffing casserole style.
It is safe to say that this stuffing casserole recipe has evolved since hosting my first Thanksgiving in an apartment kitchen. The sage and the thyme give it that holiday flavor. The paprika and ground black pepper provide a kick, but not enough that it’s noticeable. The sourdough bread sops up the chicken broth well, but it’s firm enough that it doesn’t lose its texture.
Baking it in the oven uncovered gives you a nice crunchy golden brown crust. However, if you like your stuffing a little more — as my husband likes to say — “soggy,” feel free to add more chicken broth.
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Sourdough and Sausage Stuffing Casserole
- ½ pound sage flavored bulk pork sausage
- 1 leek white and green parts, chopped
- 3 cups cubed sourdough bread
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cups chicken stock
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook sausage in a medium skillet over medium high heat until sausage is no longer pink. Transfer sausage to a plate with a slotted spoon.
- Add leeks to sausage drippings and cook until leeks become soft.
- Combine sausage, leeks, bread cubes, thyme, Italian seasoning, paprika, and pepper. Pour chicken stock over bread mixture.
- Using a spoon or your hands, mix bread mixture until bread is moist.
- Transfer to a greased 8 x 8 baking dish. Cook for 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.